The teeth of privately insured older U.S. residents are getting better, but those insureds’ high blood pressure and diabetes rates appear to be getting worse.
Researchers at the National Center for Health Statistics today published data supporting those conclusions in the latest review of health survey data based on interviews with U.S. adults ages 55 and older that were conducted from 2004 to 2007. The NCHS conducted a similar series of interviews from 2000 to 2003.
Only 22.9% of all of the 36,984 older adults who participated in the 2003-2007 survey said they were in fair or poor health, down from 23.2% when the NCHS conducted the 2000-2003 survey.
But the overall fair-or-poor health rate improved mainly for adults ages 75 and older. The percentages of adults ages 55 to 74 who reported being in fair or poor health were about the same in 2004-2007 as in 2000-2003, according to the NCHS data.
When researchers interviewed adults ages 85 and older who had some kind of private health coverage, with or without Medicare, they found that the percentage who reported being in fair or poor health had dropped to 29%, from 29.8%, and that the percentage who had lost all of their natural teeth had dropped to 32%, from 34.9%.
But the percentage of “old old” U.S. residents with hypertension increased to 56.2%, from 52.3%, and the percentage with diabetes increased to 12.9%, from 9.9%.
When the researchers interviewed privately insured “near elderly” U.S. residents ages 55 to 64, they found that the fair-or-poor health rate had dropped to 12.4%, from 13.1%, and that the percentage who had lost all natural teeth had fallen to 8%, from 10.7%.
But the percentage of privately insured near elderly participants who said they had hypertension had increased to 38.7%, from 36%, and the percentage who said they had diabetes had increased to 12.1%, from 11%.
The NCHS did not provide their own comparisons of the 2000-2003 and 2004-2007 data, and they did not discuss whether they believe the reported prevalence of diabetes and hypertension had increased because of changes in the way doctors detect, treat and advice patients about health problems, or because of actual increases in the prevalence of conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.
But having some kind of health coverage other than Medicaid and a relatively high income correlated with obvious differences in participants’ health status, NCHS researchers write in the 2004-2007 report.
“Poor and near poor adults and those with Medicaid had higher rates of most of the health conditions and impairments studied, with the exception of hearing impairment,” the researchers conclude. “Regardless of age, poor and near poor adults were less likely than adults who were not poor to have visited a dentist in the past year and more likely to have had an emergency room visit or home care.”