Baby boomers should 'stay in work to keep healthy'

Baby boomers, aged 50-70, working in an office Image copyright Thinkstock

England's chief medical officer has called on people aged between 50 and 70 to keep working to stay healthy.

In a report on the health of the so-called baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, Prof Dame Sally Davies said the physical and mental health benefits of being employed or volunteering "should not be underestimated".

She said working helps people feel fulfilled and less isolated.

A third of British workers will be over 50 by 2020.

Prof Davies said: "People are living longer than ever and so retirement presents a real opportunity for baby boomers to be more active than ever before.

"For many people it is a chance to take on new challenges - it is certainly not the start of a slower pace of life it once was.

"Staying in work, volunteering or joining a community group can make sure people stay physically and mentally active for longer.

"The health benefits of this should not be underestimated."

Lifestyle lows

At present, more than three-quarters of people aged between 50 and pension age are still in active employment, and 12% of those older than pension age are also still working.

The report also looked at the physical, mental and sexual health of 50-70 year olds.

While life expectancy has increased, healthcare has improved and cancer care is better than 20 years ago, there are still many health concerns for this age group.

With one in three classified as obese, these problems centre on lifestyle choices, such as poor diet, smoking and lack of exercise - all of which baby boomers are in a position to change, the chief medical officer says.

Health challenges for baby boomers

  • Two-thirds have not done 30 minutes of moderate physical exercise in the last month
  • 42% of employed 50-64 yr olds are living with one health condition or disability
  • Years lived in ill-health as a result of type 2 diabetes are up by 97% in men and 57% in women since 1990
  • 18% of baby boomers have depression or an anxiety disorder
  • Suicide rate is highest among men around 50 yrs old

Good news for baby boomers

  • Life expectancy is up - by nearly 5 years for men and 3 years for women - compared to those aged 50-70 in 1990
  • Premature heart disease deaths are down by 75% in men and 80% in women in same period
  • Early deaths from cancer are down by 33% since 1990
  • Men and women are smoking less and drinking less alcohol than 20 years ago

Image copyright Thinkstock

Who are the baby boomers?

They were born in the 20 or so years post World War II when family sizes increased dramatically, and are now between 50 and 70 years old.

These men and women have seen a huge amount of change in their lifetimes.

They may have grown up without a computer or even a TV, but have lived through the birth of the internet, mobile phones and social media.

They have experienced major changes in traditional household and family structures, and seen the population becoming more ethnically diverse.

But they are not a uniform group.

Those born in the first half of the baby boom will have experienced rationing while the group as a whole has seen a significant increase in the availability and diversity of food.

In their current stage of life, staying healthy, keeping active and remaining socially engaged are important to ensure that they spend 'old age' in good health too.

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