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Am J Public Health. 1992 January; 82(1): 109–112.
PMCID: PMC1694396

Improvement in intergenerational health.

Abstract

Differences in health status between subjects, their parents, and their children were analyzed in 2206 subjects who had attended the University of Pennsylvania during the 1939 to 1940 school year. Subjects compared their overall health status at the average age of 70 with that of their same-sex parent at the same age and with that of their same-sex child at the approximate average age of 45, providing reasons for reported differences. Thus, health status in family members of the same sex at the same age in 1988 was compared with that in approximately 1963. Subject health was strikingly improved compared with that of their parents a generation earlier, with 58% reporting their health to be better or much better, and only 9% reporting it to be worse or much worse (P less than .001). The major reasons for the difference were decreased prevalence of chronic conditions and healthier life-styles. The same results were observed in a community-based population of 317 subjects and, even more strikingly, in a group of 422 aging long-distance runners. These observations suggest substantial improvement in senior health status over the past quarter century in selected populations, and they contrast with equivocal changes that have been noted with traditional serial survey techniques.

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