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The Health of Older Men in the Past

The Health of Older Men in the Past

(p.21) 1 The Health of Older Men in the Past
Health at Older Ages
Dora L. Costa
University of Chicago Press

This chapter, which deals with the long-term improvements in health and longevity, explores heart conditions, musculoskeletal problems, and loss of cognitive functioning. The data used are drawn from the military records of the Union Army and the Union Army pension program. Socioeconomic factors were important predictors of all the disease categories. The chapter reveals that, in the past, occupation was a significant determinant of valvular heart disease, congestive heart failure, and joint and back problems, indicating that higher socioeconomic status protected against mechanical wear and tear and purchased less crowding and therefore less infectious diseases such as rheumatic fever. It also suggests that the high probability of physical injury on the job and in the home in the past, the high rates of infectious disease, and incomes that were too low to purchase uncrowded housing all explain why chronic disease rates were historically so high among men.

Keywords:   health, longevity, valvular heart disease, congestive heart failure, musculoskeletal problems, cognitive functioning, Union Army, occupation, rheumatic fever, physical injury

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