WASHINGTON—Levels of health disparity have increased substantially for people born in the United States after 1980, according to new research. The study also found that health disparity tends to increase as people move into middle age, before declining as people reach old age.
These two results suggest that the gap between the healthiest and least healthy people in the United States as a whole will grow larger for the next one or even two decades as the younger generations grow older and replace previous generations.
“As young people today reach middle age and preceding cohorts with a smaller health gap die off, we expect health disparities in the whole population to grow even larger,” said Hui Zheng, lead author of the study and assistant professor of sociology at Ohio State University.
A lot will depend on whether future generations will continue the trend, seen in post-baby boomers, of large health disparities.
“If that trend continues, as I expect it will, health disparities in the whole population will increase in the coming decades,” Zheng said.
The health gap has not always been growing, according to the study. Health disparities continuously declined from those born early in the 20th century to the baby boomer cohort, before increasing for post-baby boomer cohorts, especially those born after 1980.