The Blog of the Frances Perkins Center

Flabby thinking on longevity and Social Security

In General on January 3, 2011 at 2:39 pm

Did you make a New Year’s resolution to lose weight and get more exercise? Good, that’s what the majority of us need to do in order to avoid diabetes type 2 in middle age. Even so, it is estimated that

In the next 25 years, the number of Americans living with diabetes will nearly double, increasing from 23.7 million in 2009 to 44.1 million in 2034. (source) [And that’s assuming that obesity rates stay the same, instead of continuing to increase, for those 25 years.)

What does this dire prediction have to do with Social Security? Well, much of the concern about the long-term viability of the Social Security program has been built on the claim that the life expectancy of American workers is rising.

That concern has been debunked quite thoroughly in a number of places (sources) but here’s another reason why it’s a “straw man” in the argument.

In an analysis of the Framingham Heart Study, diabetic men and women age 50 and older died on average 7.5 and 8.2 years earlier, respectively, than those who did not have diabetes. (source)

If the incidence of diabetes is increasing at such a rapid rate, surely that will have an effect on the average lifespan of people who collect Social Security benefits. According to the Center for Disease Control, “Almost 25 percent of the population 60 years and older had diabetes in 2007.”

This increase in diabetes is a national catastrophe. It has huge implications for medical costs. And it’s something we all want to avoid.

So, do eat healthy foods and get your daily exercise. But don’t let anyone tell you that Social Security is going under because of Americans’ increased life expectancy rates. Unfortunately, we aren’t all living longer.


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