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Health Worries Lessen With Age?

AARP Survey on Health and Aging

Adults in their 50s have greater concerns about aches, pains, and health maladies associated with aging than their older counterparts, according to recent AARP research.

With the majority of adults ages 50–79 not expressing concern about aging-related ailments — concern levels for any given aspect of aging were limited to less than one-third of the population — the results further reveal that as older adults age they become less worried about the effects on their bodies. Still, some areas of health and wellness are consistently raised, including arthritis, changes in physical appearance, back pain, memory loss, and loss of mobility. And within such concerns fall various nuances, such as differences between men and women.

The eight-minute online survey, conducted to inform an upcoming article (“You Asked.  We Answered. - Your Top 50 Health Questions Answered!”) in the April–May 2022 edition of AARP The Magazine, examined what health, wellness, and appearance aspects worry adults ages 50–79, both now and as they look down the road. 

The list of worries wanes significantly as people age. While more than two dozen ailments sparked concern for at least 20% of people in their 50s, the list of areas of concern cited by more than 20% of people in their 60s and 70s dwindled to 11 and four, respectively. 

AARP researchers suggest perhaps the fear of what’s to come is greater than the reality, or that acceptance of these changes grows as imminence arises. While more research is needed to confirm the speculation, the researchers note one possible factor: Adults in their 50s are more likely to be working than those ages 60-plus (55% vs. 24%) and they are more likely to have children under the age of 18 (22% vs. 9%), putting them in different life stages.

Top Concerns

Arthritis was a top concern among all age groups, cited by 30% of those ages 50–59, 27% of those ages 60–69, and 26% of those ages 70–79. Joint pain was also a source of apprehension for all age groups, with 21%, 24%, and 28% of those in their 70s, 60s, and 50s, respectively, mentioning it.

Besides arthritis and joint pain, other top concerns among all age groups are high blood pressure and cancer. But again, the worry diminishes over time. For instance, cancer is cited by 27% of those ages 50–59, 21% among those ages 60–69, and 20% among those ages 70–79. Anxiety about high blood pressure is held by 29% of those in their 50s and 24% of those in their 70s.

Gender Differences 

In general women have more trepidation about aging ailments than men. The difference is particularly pronounced when it comes to aspects of physical appearance and physical changes. In their 50s women express greater concern than men about wrinkles (29% vs. 18%), gray hair (28% vs. 10%), and jowls/double chin (21% vs. 12%).

A decade later, women in their 60s are more likely than men to express apprehension over numerous changes including thinning hair, hair loss, under-eye dark circles and bags, and age spots. But the list of worries held by women also expands to physical changes, including loss of mobility, vision loss, incontinence, and digestive tract issues. Each such change is more likely to be cited by women than men. The only aspect of aging that men in their 60s are more concerned about than women is tinnitus (16% vs. 8%).

Among those in their 70s, with the same physical-appearance concerns continuing comes the additional concern of poor posture. Again, women continue to be more concerned than their male counterparts when it comes to this aspect, and women in their 70s are also more likely than men to worry about joint pain (27% vs. 13%), lack of energy (18% vs. 8%), and trouble sleeping (17% vs. 9%).

Methodology

The online survey was conducted by Interloq for AARP. There were no qualifications for this survey beyond being ages 50–79. The sample of 900 surveys was demographically representative by gender, race/ethnicity, and region, and by age cohort, with 300 surveys completed for each cohort.

For more information, please contact Vicki Levy at vlevy@aarp.org. For media inquiries, please contact External Relations at media@aarp.org.

Suggested citation:

Levy, Vicki. AARP Survey on Health and Aging. Washington, DC: AARP Research, April 2022. https://doi.org/10.26419/res.00536.001

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