Six Common Illnesses among Older Americans Cost More Than $196 Billion

Six major illnesses common among Americans age 65 and older cost more than $196 billion in 2007, according to estimates by researchers at RTI International.

The study, published in RTI Press, estimated the cost burden associated of six major illnesses among Americans age 65 or older: chronic lung disease, ischemic heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, pneumonia, and gastrointestinal illness. These illnesses are common among older Americans and environmental exposures are a significant risk factor for each of them.

"As our population continues to age, we expect that the total cost burden of these illnesses will also continue to increase," said George Van Houtven, Ph.D., senior economist at RTI and the study's lead author. "To reduce these costs, we need to give priority to prevention strategies including environmental quality improvements."

The study showed that the total cost of all six conditions was almost $135 billion in 2000. Based on population growth and increases in average medical care prices since 2000, the comparable cost in 2007 would have been more than $196 billion.

The researchers also found that ischemic heart disease was the most expensive of the six diseases, costing Americans 65 and older almost $60 billion in 2000. The least expensive of the six diseases, gastrointestinal illness, cost the 65-or-older population $500 million in 2000.

The medical costs were estimated from Medicare claims data in 2000, and productivity losses were estimated through regression analyses of National Health Interview Survey data using age-specific earnings and household production estimates.

For more information, go to www.rti.org.

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