Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Age as Health Determinant

I spent about an hour I didn't have looking for statistics to back up the argument I wanted to make today.  I didn't really find what I expected (so that refutes the theory that you can make numbers say whatever you want!), but as I've learned this year - Just because you don't see it or find it doesn't mean it isn't there.

My quest was triggered by ire.  My university offers health care coverage because are all required to be covered.  I am fortunate to have my premium waived by my assistantship.  There has been some talk of raising our costs and in an email that summarized the process and outcomes of the discussions, it was said that one of the options considered was varying costs by age.

Here is my point - which may end up in a well crafted letter to some high muckety muck.
Age is not a reliable measure of health status.  Blood assays, lung function tests, health risk appraisals, waist to hip ratios - even the BMI - would all be more accurate in predicting chronic disease.  
I assure you that my 40 something self is healthier than many 20 something undergraduates.  I have no chronic disease conditions and no 'pre' conditions (whatever that means). 

Nationally, the stats don't back me up - yet.  I blame overweight and obesity for my assumption that the 20 year olds are not the yard stick of health.  The levels of obesity in our children have tripled since the 1970s and that is going to show up in our diabetes, hypertension and cancer numbers. You can see at this CDC page that the consequences of overweight and obesity are as I indicated. This is not good.  It would be much better if chronic disease went down for all age groups.  
(by the way - most of the percentages on these conditions are offered within these categories 20-43, 44- 65 and so on - that is one of the reasons I couldn't find what I was looking for.  I couldn't separate myself from them!)
The closest thing I could get, and not necessary from the best source of data was this link here.  There are two charts on this page and you can see the much higher numbers in the older group. 

Health care costs have risen because we have more treatment options for more diseases which more people (Americans) have.  Being over 30 is not what causes diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, or being overweight.  Many factors work together for these diseases to occur.  Some of the factors are controllable and are controllable to varying degrees based on circumstance. 

A person's age is 1) not controllable and 2) not causal.
Thanks for listening - I almost feel better. 

1 comment:

drjarr said...

Good point. I agree. There are so many other variables involved.