Study: Seniors’ economic wellbeing worsened between 2021 and 2022

A new report from the United Health Foundation found that America’s older adults are struggling with several socioeconomic barriers.

The economic wellbeing of America’s seniors is cause for concern, according to the United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings 2024 Senior Report.

The annual report aims to provide reliable data to guide effort to build healthier communities. Based on 52 measures of health from 24 data sources, the report provides a comprehensive overview of the health and well-being of America’s older adults. This year was the first time the Senior Report examined health disparities, based on disability status, sexual orientation, and veteran status.

While the report identified several improved health outcomes, it also revealed worsened economic outcomes. Here’s an overview:

Improved outcomes include:

·       There was a two percent increase in the number of households with adults age 65 and older with high-speed internet between 2021 (83.1 percent) and 2022 (84.8 percent).

·       There was a four percent increase in the number of geriatric clinicians between 2022 and 2023.

·       A total of 37.1 million people reported providing unpaid care or assistance to an adult age 65 or older who needed help due to an aging-related condition in 2021 to 2022.

·       There was a 10 percent decrease in the number of adults age 65 and older that needed teeth extractions between 2020 and 2022.

Worsened outcomes include:

·       Poverty increased six percent among older adults between 2021 and 2022, leading to almost 553,000 older adults struggling.

·       There was an eight percent increase in food insecurity between 2020 and 2021.

·       Firearm deaths increased four percent among adults age 65 and older between 2017 and 2019 and 2020 to 2022.

·       The number of older adult households where housing costs were more than 30 percent of the household income increased by three percent from 2021 to 2022.

·       Depression increased by six percent among older adults between 2021 and 2022.

·       There was an 11 percent increase in frequent mental distress among older adults between 2021 and 2022.

·       Drug-related deaths increased 51 percent among older adults between 2017 and 2019 and 2020 and 2022.

The report also examined which states scored healthiest for older adults. The healthiest state was Utah, followed by Colorado, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Minnesota. The least healthy state was Mississippi, followed by Louisiana, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma.

The researchers concluded the report by urging those in leadership roles to consider the findings in their efforts to address health concerns throughout their communities.

“It is essential that the policymakers, community leaders, and public health officials who work to safeguard and improve the health of older Americans consider these measures collectively, as each measure both influences and is influenced by other measures of health and factors that affect older adults’ everyday lives,” wrote the researchers. “We encourage these leaders to use the data in this report to guide their efforts to connect older adults with resources in their communities and address these health challenges.”