Baby-boomers might be more health-conscious than earlier birth cohorts, but limited evidence has been produced so far. To investigate such changes, this study compared health-related behaviors at age 65 to 70 among three successive five-year birth cohorts (pre-war: born 1934-1938; war: born 1939-1943 and baby-boom: born 1944-1948) representative of the community-dwelling population. Information about alcohol use, smoking, physical activity, and nutrition was compared across the three cohorts (n = 4,270 participants) using Chi-squared test. Alcohol and the mean nutritional intake score did not vary across cohorts, whereas the consumption of nonalcoholic drinks increased significantly from pre-war to war and to baby-boom cohort (p<.001). Other differences across cohorts were observed only in women: the proportion of women who never or rarely engaged in sports decreased from 52.9% in the pre-war cohort to around 43% in subsequent cohorts (p<.001), while the proportion of women who had never smoked was higher in the pre-war cohort (56.1%) than in the war and the baby-boom cohorts (49.8% and 46.8%, respectively, p<.001). Overall, these results show some positive changes in older persons' health behaviors over time. Nevertheless, considerable room remains for improving lifestyles through public health interventions.
Keywords: Health behaviors; older persons; trends.