Objective: Despite the popular belief that baby boomers are ageing in better health than previous generations, limited scientific evidence is available since baby boomers have turned retirement age only recently. This study aimed to compare self-reported health status at ages 65-70 years among three cohorts of older people born before, during and at the end (baby boomers) of the Second World War.
Design: Repeated cross-sectional population-based study.
Setting: Community in a region of French-speaking Switzerland.
Participants: Community-dwelling older adults who enrolled in the Lausanne cohort 65+ study at ages 65-70 years in 2004 (n=1561), 2009 (n=1489) or 2014 (n=1678).
Outcomes: Number of self-reported chronic conditions (from a list of 11) and chronic symptoms (from a list of 11); depressive symptoms; self-rated health (very good, good, average, poor or very poor); fear of disease (not afraid at all, barely afraid, a bit afraid, quite afraid or very afraid); self-perception of ageing; disability in basic and instrumental activities of daily living.
Results: There was no significant difference between cohorts in the number of self-reported chronic conditions and chronic symptoms as well as the presence of difficulty in basic activities of daily living, depressive symptoms, fear of disease and negative self-perception of ageing. In women only, significant differences between cohorts were observed in self-rated health (p=0.005) and disability in instrumental activities of daily living (p=0.003), but these associations did not remain significant in logistic regression models adjusted for sociodemographic characteristics and unhealthy behaviours.
Conclusions: Despite important sociodemographic differences between older baby boomers and earlier cohorts, most health indicators did not suggest any trend towards a compression of morbidity. Future studies comparing these three cohorts at more advanced age are required to further investigate whether differences emerge later in life.
Keywords: baby boom; cohort effect; health status; older people; population characteristics.
© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2019. Re-use permitted under CC BY-NC. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ.