The Boomer Penalty: Excess Mortality among Baby Boomers in Canada and the United States

Enrique Acosta , Centre d'Estudis Demogràfics
Alain Gagnon, Université de Montréal
Nadine Ouellette, Université de Montréal
Robert R. Bourbeau, Université de Montréal
Marília Nepomuceno, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR)
Alyson A. Van Raalte, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR)

Studies suggest that baby boomers in Canada and the United States have experienced a slowdown, or even deterioration, in the all-cause mortality improvements relative to neighboring cohorts. These findings are counterintuitive and surprising. According to the technophysio evolution theory, the unprecedented improvements in early life conditions experienced by baby boomers should have led to declines in morbidity and mortality in later life, as was the case for generations born earlier. The present study explores mechanisms that could have produced the excess mortality for the baby boom cohorts in Canada and in three racial/ethnic groups in the United States. Using micro-level mortality data from vital statistics systems, we analyzed the contribution of causes of death that are likely driving this cohort’s excess mortality and their dynamic over time. The analyses are done using demographic decomposition, visual, and statistical methods. We found evidence of a higher susceptibility of the trailing edge boomers to behavioral causes of death, namely mortality from drugs, alcohol, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, COPD, and suicides. Most of these causes contributed to the all-cause mortality disadvantage of boomers by sustained cohort effects that escorted the cohorts over time. This invites a rethinking of the mechanisms driving current age-period-cohort mortality patterns. Mechanisms that can generate the observed cohort disadvantage, such as more prevalent levels of distress and frustration among boomers –the birth cohort effect proposed by Easterlin–, and the riskier attitudes toward drug use and sexual practices that are constituent of the boomer generation identity are addressed and discussed.

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 Presented in Session 21. Disparities in Survival and Mortality