Palloni, Alberto, and Mary McEniry
Working paper no. 2004-09
Aging in Latin America and the Caribbean will not proceed along known paths already followed by more developed countries. In particular, the health profile of the future elderly population is less predictable due to factors associated with their demographic past that may haunt them for a long time and make them more vulnerable, even if economic and institutional conditions turn out to be better than what they are likely to be. This paper answers a set of questions regarding the nature and determinants of health status among the elderly in Latin America and the Caribbean using SABE (Survey on Health and Well-Being of Elders), a cross-sectional representative sample of over 10,000 elderly aged 60 and above in private homes in seven major cities in Latin America and the Caribbean. We examine health outcomes such as self-reported health, functional limitations–Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs), obesity (ratio of weight in kilograms to the square of height in centimeters), and self reported chronic conditions (including diabetes). The findings include: (a) Countries differ in self-reported health but exhibit much less differences in terms of functional limitations. The number of chronic conditions increase with age and is higher among females than among males; (b) On average SABE countries display levels of self-reported diabetes (and obesity) that are as high if not higher than those found in the US; (c) There is evidence, albeit weaker than expected, suggesting deteriorated health and functional status in the region; (d) There is important evidence pointing toward rather strong inequalities (by education and income) in selected health outcomes. Preliminary findings from SABE confirm that Latin America and the Caribbean display peculiarities in the health profile of elderly, particularly with regard to diabetes and obesity. It is important that new policy initiatives begin to seriously target the region’s elderly, especially with an emphasis on the prevention and treatment of diabetes and obesity.