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Preventive Health Screenings Among Midlife and Older Adults

In an effort to learn more about preventive health services among midlife and older adults, in December 2009 AARP Knowledge Management fielded a short telephone survey among a nationally representative sample of Americans age 45+.

Results indicate that prevention seems to be top-of-mind among this population, with more than three-quarters of respondents reporting having had discussions with their health professionals about physical activity, alcohol use, and smoking, and slightly fewer than six in ten having had similar conversations about depression and its symptoms. Although we cannot know if these conversations have had an impact on individual behavior, it is heartening to know that they are occurring.

Key findings include the following:

  • While nearly half of the respondents rated their health as excellent or very good, younger respondents and those with higher annual household incomes were more likely than their demographic counterparts to do so.
  • Eating right in order to stay healthy is the health practice given the highest level of importance by respondents, noted by more than nine in ten as extremely or very important. Maintaining a healthy weight, getting enough sleep, getting enough regular exercise, reducing stress, practicing safe sex, or having a yearly physical or check-up were also given high importance marks, with at least eight in ten respondents rating them as extremely or very important.
  • More than nine in ten respondents reported having their blood pressure checked in the last three years, while more than eight in ten said they had a weight/height measure (body mass index) taken, had a blood cholesterol test, had a dental exam, or had an eye exam during that time period. About two-thirds of respondents reported having a test for diabetes in the last three years, and nearly six in ten said they had received a flu shot during the same time period.
  • In general, older respondents were more likely than younger ones to say they have had a myriad of vaccinations or health screenings in the last three years.
  • Roughly one-fifth of respondents mentioned five “top tier” reasons for not receiving vaccines or health screenings: cost of the screening, insufficient funds to cover copayments or deductibles, uncertainty over what health insurance covers, lack of importance to them, or lack of health insurance. Notably, younger respondents were more likely than older ones to mention four of the five “top-tier” reasons, all of which relate to financial or insurance issues.

Telephone interviews were conducted with a sample of 803 respondents aged 45 and older drawn at random from the United States. Quotas were established so that half the respondents (402) were 45-64 years old and the other half (401) were 65 and older. The interviews were conducted in English by Woelfel Research, Inc. from December 2 to December 11, 2009. Further information about the survey can be obtained by contacting Teresa A. Keenan at 202-434-6274. (33 pages)

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