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Americans Living Two More Healthy Years, Study

Update Date: Sep 16, 2013 10:45 AM EDT

In a new study published today in Pediatrics, researchers found that children between the ages of 11 and 16 are becoming more active than before. The study also found that American children are eating healthier consuming more vegetables and fruits in 2009 than they were in 2001. On top of these promising findings, a new study is reporting that American adults are living two more healthy years today than they were a generation ago.

For this study, the research team examined data from several government-sponsored health surveys that were conducted throughout the past decades. The team composed of Susan Stewart from the National Bureau of Economic Research, David Cutler, the Otto Eckstein Professor of Applied Economics and professor in the Harvard Department of Global Health and Population and Allison Rosen, associate professor of quantitative health sciences at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. From the data samples, the team calculated how Americans' quality-adjusted life expectancy (QALE) changed over time.

"What we're talking about in this study is not simply life expectancy, but quality-adjusted life expectancy," Stewart said according to Medical Xpress. "Many studies have measured this in different ways, but this is really the first time we've been able to measure it in the entire U.S. population using such a rich measure over a long period."

The researchers reported that overall, Americans are getting healthier as time passes. Americans are living longer while reporting higher levels of energy and lower levels of depressive and anxious moods. People are also carrying out everyday task, such as walking and taking care of themselves with more ease. The researchers found that these improvements applied to people regardless of sex and ethnicities. The researchers did find, however, that health improvements did not seem to apply to younger people. Even though the elderly were reporting higher levels of health improvements, for younger people, there were more reports of depressive moods and anxiety in the 2000s.

The researchers reasoned that older people might have more gains today than they did in the past decades because diseases associated with aging, such as heart problems and vision complications are more treatable. The team also noted that access to healthcare is easier for seniors today. Despite finding strong evidence of improving health conditions, the researchers stated that more information gathered over the next years could add a substantial amount of data.

"Part of the reason we want to do this type of study is because we need to know what's happening to the health of the population," Cutler said. "That information is valuable in and of itself, but it's also important that we have a baseline that we can use to measure whether and how things change once the ACA (Affordable Care Act) goes into effect."

The study was published in the American Journal of Public Health

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