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Understanding the Improvement in Disability Free Life Expectancy In the U.S. Elderly Population

Author

Listed:
  • Michael Chernew
  • David M. Cutler
  • Kaushik Ghosh
  • Mary Beth Landrum

Abstract

Understanding how healthy lifespans are changing is essential for public policy. This paper explores changes in healthy lifespan in the U.S. over time and considers reasons for the changes. We reach three fundamental conclusions. First, we show that healthy life increased measurably in the US between 1992 and 2008. Years of healthy life expectancy at age 65 increased by 1.8 years over that time period, while disabled life expectancy fell by 0.5 years. Second, we identify the medical conditions that contribute the most to changes in healthy life expectancy. The largest improvements in healthy life expectancy come from reduced incidence and improved functioning for those with cardiovascular disease and vision problems. Together, these conditions account for 63 percent of the improvement in disability-free life expectancy. Third and more speculatively, we explore the role of medical treatments in the improvements for these two conditions. We estimate that improved medical care is likely responsible for a significant part of the cardiovascular and vision-related extension of healthy life.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael Chernew & David M. Cutler & Kaushik Ghosh & Mary Beth Landrum, 2016. "Understanding the Improvement in Disability Free Life Expectancy In the U.S. Elderly Population," NBER Working Papers 22306, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:22306
    Note: AG HC HE
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Vicki Freedman & Brenda Spillman & Patti Andreski & Jennifer Cornman & Eileen Crimmins & Ellen Kramarow & James Lubitz & Linda Martin & Sharon Merkin & Robert Schoeni & Teresa Seeman & Timothy Waidman, 2013. "Trends in Late-Life Activity Limitations in the United States: An Update From Five National Surveys," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 50(2), pages 661-671, April.
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    4. repec:aph:ajpbhl:10.2105/ajph.2004.048744_6 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Vicki Freedman & Eileen Crimmins & Robert Schoeni & Brenda Spillman & Hakan Aykan & Ellen Kramarow & Kenneth Land & James Lubitz & Kenneth Manton & Linda Martin & Diane Shinberg & Timothy Waidmann, 2004. "Resolving inconsistencies in trends in old-age disability: Report from a technical working group," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 41(3), pages 417-441, August.
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    10. Rosen, Allison B. & Stewart, Susan T. & Cutler, David M., 2009. "Forecasting the Effects of Obesity and Smoking on U.S. Life Expectancy," Scholarly Articles 5344184, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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    1. repec:nbr:nberch:14040 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:eee:jeeman:v:86:y:2017:i:c:p:93-120 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Courtney Coile & Kevin S. Milligan & David A. Wise, 2018. "Social Security Programs and Retirement Around the World: Working Longer – Introduction and Summary," NBER Working Papers 24584, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Hulten, Charles R. & Nakamura, Leonard I., 2017. "Accounting for Growth in the Age of the Internet The Importance of Output-Saving Technical Change," Working Papers 17-24, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being

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