• June 16, 2021
 Older Texans say they’re exercising, But also smoking more

The smoking rate for Texans older than age 65 climbed from 6.7% to 10.9% between 2017 and 2019, according to a new report. | Photo by thomaasheise/Pixabay

Older Texans say they’re exercising, But also smoking more

AUSTIN – Many folks have acknowledged dealing with more anxiety since the pandemic hit. But even before that, seniors were experiencing increased mental and behavioral health challenges, according to a new report.

The annual report from the UnitedHealth Foundation found that between 2016 and 2019, people age 65 and older have seen increases in drug-related deaths, suicide and frequent mental stress, nationwide.

In Texas specifically, said Dr. Rhonda Randall, executive vice president and chief medical officer of UnitedHealthcare Employer and Individual, seniors have renewed a habit many had given up.

“More seniors reported that they were smoking in Texas in the year 2019 than they did in 2017,” she said, “by a magnitude of 63%.”

Randall warned that smoking has a high correlation with heart disease, cancers and many other medical conditions. In contrast, the report said Texans older than age 65 increased their physical exercise by 51% in the same two-year timespan, and ate fruits and vegetables at a higher rate than did their counterparts in many other states.

Randall said older Texans also are getting more sleep than older residents of most other states, and – if they need it – can more readily rely on home health care.

“And they have access to home health-care workers,” she said. “There are more home health-care workers per capita in Texas than there are in many other states.”

Nationally, flu vaccinations among seniors were up in 2019 versus the two-year period prior to that by 6%. But by far, Randall said, the most worrisome trend is older people reporting health issues because they spend so much time alone.

“We saw a risk of social isolation continue to increase in this year’s report,” she said. “We know that there is a significant correlation between social isolation and overall health, and in particular, behavioral health.”

By 2050, people older than 65 are expected to be about one-fifth of the total U.S. population. The authors said they hope the 2021 Senior Report will help leaders set future public-health priorities.

Author:  Roz Brown – Public News Service (TX)

Texas News Service

Texas News Service is an arm of the Public News Service that provides stories that examine the effects of policy on areas that receive too little coverage, lifting up often marginalized voices and making greater journalistic breadth on any platform.

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