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Bad health habits could hurt the economy
By Insure.com staff

People 40 and older could be hurting the future U.S. economy by eating poorly, neglecting exercise and failing to track their health, according to a new report by the MetLife Mature Market Institute and the Center for Healthy Aging.

The researchers estimate obesity increases spending by $1,723 per year per person. Obesity's annual medical burden is almost 8.5 percent of total annual medical expenditures, based on data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Medical Expenditure Panel Survey.

The report found that 26 percent of middle-aged and older Americans are sedentary. They reported doing no physical activity outside of work for the last 30 days, and about the same percentage are obese. The study also reported that 9 percent of those 40 and over have diabetes and 31 percent have high blood pressure, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Although the prevalence of disability has fallen among people 65 and older, the rate of disability has increased among those over age 30.

"A decline in chronic disease would reduce the prevalence of disability and lead to declines in associated medical expenditures per year," Sandra Timmermann, director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute, said in a press statement. "In the workplace, employers can play an important role by promoting good health behaviors through wellness programs. This practice would also help employees become more engaged and productive in their jobs."

The report also recommended creating programs to help older people maintain their independence. Technology, such as teleconferencing between doctors and patients and emergency response systems that detect when someone falls, will play an important part in helping people stay healthy and independent, the report said.

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