Ageism Amplifies Cost and Prevalence of Health Conditions

Gerontologist. 2020 Jan 24;60(1):174-181. doi: 10.1093/geront/gny131.


Background and objectives: The persistent status of ageism as one of the least acknowledged forms of prejudice may be due in part to an absence of quantifying its costs in economic terms. In this study, we calculated the costs of ageism on health conditions for all persons aged 60 years or older in the United States during 1 year.

Research design and materials: The ageism predictors were discrimination aimed at older persons, negative age stereotypes, and negative self-perceptions of aging. Health care costs of ageism were computed by combining analyses of the impact of the predictors with comprehensive health care spending data in 1 year for the eight most-expensive health conditions, among all Americans aged 60 years or older. As a secondary analysis, we computed the number of these health conditions experienced due to ageism.

Results: It was found that the 1-year cost of ageism was $63 billion, or one of every seven dollars spent on the 8 health conditions (15.4%), after adjusting for age and sex as well as removing overlapping costs from the three predictors. Also according to our model, ageism resulted in 17.04 million cases of these health conditions.

Discussion and implications: This is the first study to identify the economic cost that ageism imposes on health. The findings suggest that a reduction of ageism would not only have a monetary benefit for society, but also have a health benefit for older persons.

Keywords: Age stereotypes; Ageism; Cost; Health; Perceptions of aging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Ageism / economics*
  • Ageism / statistics & numerical data
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Health Care Costs / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Stereotyping
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States