Dimensions of Health in the Elderly Population

31 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2011

See all articles by David M. Cutler

David M. Cutler

Harvard University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Mary Beth Landrum

Harvard Medical School

Date Written: June 2011

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

Cutler, David M. and Landrum, Mary Beth, Dimensions of Health in the Elderly Population (June 2011). NBER Working Paper No. w17148. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1866107

David M. Cutler (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

Littauer Center, Room 315A
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-496-5216 (Phone)
617-495-8570 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-868-3900 (Phone)
617-868-2742 (Fax)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Mary Beth Landrum

Harvard Medical School ( email )

Department of Health Care Policy
Boston, MA 02115
United States

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
39
Abstract Views
715
PlumX Metrics