People born from 1966 to 1980, known as Generation X, are fatter and twice as likely to have diabetes as Baby Boomers were at the same age, according to an Australian study that predicts younger generations will be sicker and costlier to care for in old age.
National health survey data were used to compare the groups at age 25 to 44 years. While Generation X was better educated and less likely to smoke, their prevalence of obesity was about 50 percent higher than recorded for Baby Boomers, born from 1946 to 1965, at the same age. For males especially, the trend corresponded with increased diabetes, researchers at the University of Adelaide, in South Australia, found.
Their findings, published today in PLOS ONE, suggest the current generation of breadwinners may be vulnerable earlier in life to diabetes, hypertension and other lifestyle-related diseases, pulling them out of the labor force at a younger age.
“The physical activity and food environment has changed drastically over the past decades to one in which transport options encourage sedentary behavior and food high in fat and sugar is often more readily available than a healthier alternative,” they said, adding that if trends continue, “there will be significant implications for workforce capacity, health care utilization and, therefore, health costs.”
The research, funded by the Australian Research Council, adds to evidence suggesting that successive generations are developing obesity and related chronic conditions earlier in life, the authors said.
At the same relative age, Baby Boomers in the U.S. and U.K. have been shown to have a greater prevalence of obesity than people born from 1926 to 1945, associated with more disability and chronic conditions, including diabetes and hypertension.