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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Trends in the Health of Older Californians


California's population is getting older. By 2026 the elderly population will double to nearly 8 million. This report examines health statistics on the elderly from three California Health Interview Survey cycles (2001, 2003 and 2005) in order to spotlight current challenges and predict future trends. The report found that older adults were more likely to report cancer, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and the need for help with emotional problems. The use of medical care services also increased, including the percent of older adults who went to the emergency room as well as the percent that made monthly or more frequent doctor visits. Racial and ethnic disparities were notable statewide and suggest an area for preventative intervention given that California’s elderly population is projected to become minority non-Latino white by 2030. Health challenges were particularly acute in California's San Joaquin Valley, home to a large Latino population. Positive trends included improved screening rates for several types of cancer and a drop in the number of older California women taking hormone replacement therapy, drugs that have been linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and breast cancer. The report features in-depth health statistics by county and region on a wide range of health topics including rates of arthritis, asthma, cancer, diabetes, falls, high blood pressure, mammography and colonoscopy screening, stroke and more.

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