Both political parties sound off about the entitlement programs of Medicare and Social Security, discussing the merits and demerits of the present systems. A study published in the Sept. 2012 edition of The National Bureau of Economic Research quantifies the answers to two concerns about the American economy's effect on the life expectancy of the baby boomer generation.
Wellesley College Research
Courtney C. Coile, Phillip B. Levine and Robin McKnight of Wellesley College undertook a study to examine the effects of higher unemployment rates in those people near retirement age, and specifically how it affected their longevity. As U.S. News & World Report explains, the subsequent findings about Medicare and Social Security were not central to the study's objective, but did figure in significantly when determining outcomes for the age group of those in their late 50s.
The research team examined 40 years of mortality data along with labor market conditions that were in effect during those years.
Recession Effects on Fiftysomethings
Older workers, those in their late 50s and early 60s, who lose their jobs may experience a loss of three years on the normal life expectancy. Researchers attributed this to the fact that when people in those pre-retirement years lose their jobs, they may experience several to many years of reduced income prior to becoming eligible for Social Security benefits at age 62.
The reduced income and likely loss of health insurance benefits to those in this age bracket mean higher health care costs out-of-pocket. People with reduced income and health benefits are less likely to seek preventive services and avoid all but vital health care.
The effect of a recession for this age group lingers for many years, a fact the researchers attribute to the decreasing life expectancy their research discovered.
How Medicare and Social Security Add Years to Life
The ability to take "early retirement" by accessing Social Security at age 62 provides a safety net for those who lost employment or had reduced employment in the years before age 62. People who begin taking Social Security payments at that age take a lower benefit than if they had waited until full retirement age, but for many people the choice is simple: A steady income is better than no income.
Medicare, available at age 65, provides the health care benefit that many of the recession-era older workers have been without.
Phillip B. Levine, economist at Wellesley College and co-author of the Wellesley study, summed it up for Health News Digest: "Those workers who are unlucky enough to approach retirement during a recession will, unfortunately, face long-term health consequences. The situation would likely be worse if it weren't for the support of the Social Security and Medicare system in providing income support and health insurance for the elderly."
Smack dab in the middle of the baby boomer generation, L.L. Woodard is a proud resident of "The Red Man" state. With what he hopes is an everyman's view of life's concerns both in his state and throughout the nation, Woodard presents facts and opinions based on common-sense solutions.