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Ageism May Add Billions to Health Costs

Yale study finds discrimination accounts for $1 of every $7 spent on 8 chronic conditions

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Ageism can take a significant toll not only on the mind but also on the body and pocketbook, according to a study of discrimination’s effects on the health of older adults.

A Yale School of Public Health study calculated that $63 billion a year spent on health care for eight expensive conditions is because of ageism. Results of the study were published online recently in the Gerontologist medical journal.

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A primary example of the cost linked to ageism is in the field of cardiovascular disease. Research has found that negative stereotypes about age lead to greater cardiovascular stress and then to serious events such as stroke or heart attack.

Researchers found that $1 of every $7 spent on the eight costliest conditions afflicting those age 60 and older was attributable to ageism. In addition to the cardiovascular disease, the expensive conditions are chronic respiratory disease, musculoskeletal disorders, injuries, diabetes mellitus, treatment of smoking, mental disorders and noncommunicable diseases.

The findings of the study were based on an analysis of national surveys, demographic data and “a systematic review of research concerning the influence of ageism on health.” Cost estimates were calculated based on “the cost of ageism on health above and beyond the cost of age alone on health.”

Professor Becca R. Levy, the lead author of the study, said that “ageism is one of the least visible prejudices. Our study helps to increase the visibility of ageism by looking at its consequences.”

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