Evidence for decline in disability and improved health among persons aged 55 to 70 years: the Framingham Heart Study

Am J Public Health. 1999 Nov;89(11):1678-83. doi: 10.2105/ajph.89.11.1678.


Objectives: This study detected secular change in disability and health among persons aged 55 to 70 years, the life period when increases in disability and morbidity begin and retirement occurs.

Methods: Cross-sectional comparisons were completed with data from similarly aged members of the original (n = 1760) and offspring (n = 1688) cohorts of the Framingham Heart Study, which represent 2 generations. Analyses were conducted by gender and on chronic disease subgroups by logistic regression.

Results: There was substantially less disability in the offspring cohort than in the original cohort. Thirty-six percent of offspring men were disabled vs 52% of original cohort men (P = .001); among women, these proportions were 54% vs 72% (P = .001). Fewer offspring perceived their health as fair or poor and fewer had chronic diseases. Offspring were more physically active and less likely to smoke or consume high amounts of alcohol, but their average weight was greater. The secular decline in disability was strongly evident among individuals with chronic diseases.

Conclusions: Our findings depict a secular change toward a less disabled and globally healthier population in the period of life when retirement occurs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Aged
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / complications
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Disabled Persons / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Massachusetts / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Skills