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Commentary: Will Living Longer Impact Our Public Health?

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Due to advances in technology, people as a whole are now living longer than they used to. While this is certainly a cause for celebration, it can also create some unique challenges. There are only so many resources allocated to the healthcare system at the moment, and when these resources are stretched to the limit by an aging population in need of treatment, it can leave some individuals out in the cold. Bed shortages, lags in emergency response time, and even the end of Medicare as we know it could loom on the horizon without a backup plan.

#1 Increased Demand for Health Care

The main reason why living longer could affect the public health care system is because as the population ages, there will be a higher demand for healthcare services. This could be a problem if there aren’t enough hospital beds and healthcare workers to go around and treat everyone. One way that this can be alleviated is if more young people are encouraged to pursue a career path in healthcare, and if there are funds put into place to pay for insurance for an aging population. As people live longer, this demand will only continue to grow and could lead to problems if solutions aren’t found.

#2 Pushing Social Security and Medicare to the Limit

According to the US Government trustees in charge of Social Security, the fund will be exhausted completely by 2035. Because this is the fund that pays for retirement funds for 44 million elderly people each year, if the population of elderly continues to grow the funds could run out at an even faster rate. The future looks similarly bleak for Medicare, which is expected to run out in 2024. If no alternative funds can be found and the population continues to grow as people live longer, there could be a very serious crisis in the next 15-20 years, with an elderly population having no means to support themselves or pay for healthcare.

#3 A Bigger Population with a Smaller Labor Force

As the population grows in general due to this aging population, this can also create problems because there may not be enough people of working age to support them. After retirement, people are in need of products, services, and all the amenities of a working society. As a result, some people may be forced to work beyond retirement just to make ends meet, which can lead to health problems for those who have to keep working despite health problems or disabilities.

#4 Living Longer Doesn’t Always Mean Living Healthier

While technically people may be living longer lives now, they aren’t necessarily any healthier in their old age. In a report conducted by the National Institute of Aging, baby boomers in the 51-56 age bracket were compared to those in the same age group a generation ago. Today’s group suffered from more health problems than those of a similar age in the past, including an increase in diabetes, heart disease, mobility problems, and obesity. This may be due to the more sedentary lifestyle that is prevalent today, but it certainly does not bode well for the future if we have a population that is living longer but with more chronic health conditions. The system could be stretched to a breaking point as a result.

#5 A Strain on Natural Resources

The environment and the economy are now tied together, and could both be affected by a growing population. If people live longer, they will use more resources in their lifetime which affects the greater good of everyone in a society. In terms of healthcare, this includes the power needed to run equipment used in hospitals and clinics.

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