Generation X may live longer than their boomer elders but their health will be poorer

Generation X may live longer but they'll be doing so in bad health, new research suggests. (Getty Images)
Generation X may live longer but they'll be doing so in bad health, new research suggests. (Getty Images)

Do you want the good news or the bad news Generation X?

Let’s start with the good. Science has revealed that those in the forties and fifties are likely to live longer.

The bad news is, that you’re likely to be living those extra years in poorer health.

A new study has suggested that Generation X are more likely to suffer more years of bad health than older baby boomers now in their 60s and early 70s.

While you might expect younger generations to be leading healthier lives than their older ancestors, new research has found people in England in their forties and fifties are, on average, in significantly worse physical shape than their elders were at the same age.

The research, which compared generations born between 1945 and 1980, found that though those born later were living longer, Generation X, currently in their forties and fifties, are suffering from conditions such as diabetes and obesity at earlier stages in their lives.

Read more: Drinking three cups of tea a week linked to a longer and healthier life

The findings, published in the journal Population Studies, looked at data from 135,189 people aged between 25 and 64 who took part in the Health Survey for England (HSE), an annual household survey.

Participants were asked whether they had poor health, a long-term illness, and a range of chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

As well as being quizzed on their health, nurses also took measurements of hypertension, body mass index (BMI) and glycated haemoglobin, which can indicate if a person has diabetes.

The team then compared the results for different age groups and used the data to calculate changes in healthy life expectancy over the generations as well as years likely to be spent in poor health.

They worked out that half of the gains in life expectancy between 1993 and 2003 would likely be spent in poor health, falling to a fifth of the gains between 2003 and 2013.

Researchers found those born later were more likely to have diabetes, to be overweight and to report having cardiovascular disease and poor health in general.

Baby boomers were healthier at the same age as their younger ancestors. (Getty Images)
Baby boomers were healthier at the same age as their younger ancestors. (Getty Images)

Read more: Exercising regularly could have an anti-ageing effect on the body

Commenting on the findings senior author, Professor George Ploubidis, from the UCL Centre for Longitudinal Studies, said: “Earlier in the 20th century, a rise in life expectancy went hand in hand with an increase in healthy lifespan - younger generations were living longer, healthier lives.

“It appears that, for those generations born between 1945 and 1980, this trend has stalled. Those born later are expected to live longer on average, but with more years of ill health.”

Study authors believe the results could help influence, already under pressure, healthcare services.

“Our study shows that, for those born between 1945 and 1980, the overall trend is towards an increasing proportion of years in poor health, with some health conditions beginning at an earlier age,” says lead author, Dr Stephen Jivraj from University College London (UCL) Epidemiology and Public Health.

“This has worrying implications for healthcare services, which already face increased demand because of an ageing population.”

Read more: Super fit 73-year-old pulls off planks, chin ups and handstands while working out six times a week

The findings come as further research revealed earlier this year that wealthy people can expect to live, on average, eight to nine more “healthy” years of life compared to those who are less well off.

The study, published in the Journal of Gerontology, examined how long adults can expect to live a disability-free life, rather than looking at simply life expectancy.

It was found that the biggest socioeconomic advantage in terms of disability-free life expectancy was wealth.

As well as wealth, researchers also believe being kind could help you live longer.

Dr Kelli Harding from Columbia University in New York believes showing compassion lowers our blood pressure, while giving our immune system a boost.

Additional reporting SWNS.