Baby boomers are not as healthy as they imagine. The generation that took as its slogan “don’t trust anyone over 30” is beginning to reach Medicare age. This cohort was born between 1946 and 1964. They were supposed to be more health conscious than prior generations. Public health campaigns against high-fat diets, smoking and cholesterol should have led to better health among boomers. This group was also theoretically more physically active in their leisure time with gym memberships and other sports activities.
A new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine shows that they don’t live up to their reputation. Data from a nationally representative survey reveals that fewer boomers (13%) rated themselves as in excellent health compared to previous generations (32%). They are more likely to have difficulty walking or climbing stairs than their parents did at the same age. They are also twice as likely to have high blood pressure. The investigators suggest that this might be due to their high prevalence of obesity and their dependence upon pills to solve their ills.
[JAMA Internal Medicine, online, Feb. 4, 2013]
Boomers who want to stay healthy with as few medications as possible may want to listen to our radio interviews on physical activity, such as Movement for Mood and Wellbeing, with Dr. James Blumenthal and Gretchen Reynolds; Move a Little, Lose a Lot, with Dr. James Levine; or Willpower Science, with Dr. Kelly McGonigal.

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  1. LG

    I beg to differ on this! How many people have you checked!? I’m the opposite of this. Exercise, eat right, lots of organic, active, have a job, positive thinker, good out look, don’t act, feel or look my age. I know lots of people now days like this. I have read articles the opposite of what you are saying.

  2. cece4184

    I had many of your same issues (I’m currently 66), my doctors could find nothing wrong. I finally went to Progressive Medical Center (naturopaths and M.D.) in Atlanta who ran many tests and found my thyroid was low, got me off of gluten (bread products) and lo and behold I have no more aches & pains!
    Even my low back pain and wrist tendinitis went away! If I eat gluten, the next day the pains will come back (as well as knee, shoulder and joint pain). I don’t think regular doctors will find the real cause of your problem as I had every test in the book and no one could find anything wrong. Also, I had a vertical splitting fingernail that was very annoying, which dermatologist said was due to aging. That has also grown out (cause being low thyroid). Anyway, I wish you luck in finding help for your issues.
    Buy the book “Wheat Belly” or read Dr. Davis’ blog at to read about the many health issues that are helped by getting off of wheat.

  3. Karen

    >Public health campaigns against high-fat diets, smoking and cholesterol should have led to better health among boomers.
    Given that high-fat is not a problem, and “against cholesterol” is only a tiny part of a very larger and different problem, we can only hope that public health messages about smoking aren’t as wrong as the other two, or we’ll really be in trouble.
    If we’d been eating high (real) fat instead of the high (fake / processed / industrial) carb-crud that replaced it, we wouldn’t have half the obesity.
    If we were willing, able and encouraged to give up crud-carbs completely, we wouldn’t have any need for “depending on pills to solve our problems.” But out public health messages and advertising want it both ways. Pharma wants us depending on pills, and industrial ag doesn’t want us changing our diet.
    So blame the victim, but follow the money.

  4. DS

    You can exercise TOO much. Athletes seem to diet sooner than couch potatoes.
    Also, us Baby Boomers fell for the “low fat” and “cholesterol is evil” hype. Also sun screen. We are a generation that grew up with fluoride, chlorine, pasteurized dairy, and doctors who believe that the prescription pad is mightier than nutrition. Don’t cure the disease, treat the symptoms FOREVER! Thankfully, we have the internet and can read blogs and columns like this, which our doctors ignore.

  5. Dorothy L.

    I feel like a ping pong ball. I have had a high serum calcium, 10.7+ or – for Abt. 3 years. 3 mos ago a Pth test was ordered and came back high, 78, I believe. I was referred to an endocrinologist. Other than questions, they ordered lots of blood tests. My Pth came back @ 7. Ca is still the same, 10.7 The endocrinologist said, I definitely do not have HypoPth. No scans were taken. The main symptom that has changed in the last 2 -3 years is a bit of nausea, and much flatulence & cramps at times. I feel that my OA has gotten a bit more painful. I cannot take bleeding drugs or restricted type, they really make me sick.
    I am 82, I should have aches and pains, but this is different than the usual aging ones, at least, I think so. I feel like I want to sleep more. I am thinking of going to a Med. center and having a complete work up. Longevity is in my family, I do not feel sick except for nausea onset it comes on fast and curbs my style. I can’t even go to water aerobics. . Perhaps, I should just have the Pth test repeated first. Too much discrepancy in only 3 months. The endocrinologist says, I have hypercalcemia. I have not taken any extra Ca in years.
    I have taken 5000mg Omega 3 & Vit D for years in lieu of Statins, they made me very weak. Recommendations would be welcome. I think that I may be a bit more sensitive, but I am not depressed. In fact i lead an active wonderful life… I love your radio program, so glad that you feature real professionals. I am a widow, but have thought of going to Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville. I have a daughter in the Boston area so if you know of a good teaching hospital, it would be convenient to go there.

  6. PLR

    While some of these problems are certainly attributable to obesity and lack of exercise, how much is due to changes in diagnostic criteria? We know that hypertension is being diagnosed much earlier, and many other ‘diseases’ are being over-diagnosed. Of course the boomers are going to call themselves less healthy, whether they truly are is questionable.

  7. P.H.

    Boomers were born into a world dramatically more polluted than their parents. Food supply had many more chemicals when they were young than that of their parents. Anecdotally I have noticed that my peers (who are not overweight and do exercise) have had more serious health problems than their parents had at the same age. A long-time nurse at Calvary Hospital (exclusively for terminally ill adults) in New York City said that the patients “just keep getting younger and younger.” The “greatest generation” was the only one to have the advantages of a cleaner environment when they were young and modern medicine by the time they were old. I suspect their long lives are an aberration that will not be repeated.

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