In a new study, researchers found that recent generations show a worrying decline in health compared to their parents and grandparents when they were the same age.
They found that, compared to previous generations, members of Generation X and Generation Y showed poorer physical health, higher levels of unhealthy behaviors such as alcohol use and smoking, and more depression and anxiety.
The results suggest the likelihood of higher levels of diseases and more deaths in younger generations than in the past.
The research was conducted by a team at The Ohio State University.
In the study, the team used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1988-2016 (62,833 respondents) and the National Health Interview Survey 1997-2018 (625,221 respondents).
To measure physical health, the researchers used eight markers of a condition called metabolic syndrome, a constellation of risk factors for heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and diabetes.
Some of the markers include waist circumference, blood pressure, cholesterol level and body mass index (BMI).
They also used one marker of chronic inflammation, low urinary albumin, and one additional marker of renal function, creatinine clearance.
The researchers found that the measures of physical health have worsened from the baby boomer generation through Gen X (born 1965-80) and Gen Y (born 1981-99).
The declining health trends suggest people may have a challenging health prospect in the United State in coming years.
The team also found smoking couldn’t explain the decline. Obesity could help explain the increase in metabolic syndrome, but not the increases seen in chronic inflammation.
It wasn’t just the overall health markers that were concerning for some members of the younger generations.
Results showed that levels of anxiety and depression have increased for each generation of whites from the War Babies generation (born 1943-45) through Gen Y.
Health behaviors also show worrying trends.
The probability of heavy drinking has continuously increased across generations for whites and Black males, especially after late-Gen X (born 1973-80).
In addition, the probability of using street drugs peaked at late boomers (born 1956-64), decreased afterward, then rose again for late-Gen X.
The team says these results maybe just an early warning of what is to come.
The United States has already seen recent decreases in life expectancy and increases in disability and morbidity.
The study is published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. One author of the study is Hui Zheng, a professor of sociology.
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