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Dimensons of Health in the Elderly Population

In: Investigations in the Economics of Aging

  • David M. Cutler
  • Mary Beth Landrum

In this paper, we characterize the multi-faceted health of the elderly and understand how health along multiple dimensions has changed over time. Our data are from the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey, 1991-2007. We show that 19 measures of health can be combined into three broad categories: a first dimension representing severe physical and social incapacity such as difficulty dressing or bathing; a second dimension representing less severe difficulty such as walking long distances or lifting heavy objects; and a third dimension representing vision and hearing impairment. These dimensions have changed at different rates over time. The first and third have declined rapidly over time, while the second has not. The improvement in health is not due to differential mortality of the sick or a new generation of more healthy people entering old age. Rather, the aging process itself is associated with less rapid deterioration in health. We speculate about the factors that may lead to this.

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This chapter was published in:
  • David A. Wise, 2012. "Investigations in the Economics of Aging," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number wise11-2, December.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 12437.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:12437
    Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
    Phone: 617-868-3900
    Web page: http://www.nber.org
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