Charlotte Wirl: Ageing and disease prevention

At the recent European Health Forum Gastein, a group of “young Gasteiners” blogged live from the talks. A selection of the blogs are on the BMJ blogsite. Tessa Richards, assistant editor, BMJ, also attended the conference. You can read her blog and introduction to the “young Gasteiners” here.

Charlotte WirlLots of information and data on an ageing population were presented at the lunch time workshop on ageing and disease prevention. The speakers managed to make already well known data look new and interesting and that’s what I will try to present to you in the following bullet points.

Facts, numbers, and quotes:

  • We are living longer in better health but retiring earlier.
  • The actual number of chronically disabled Americans is less than expected and forecasted.
  • Better physical activity results in good health at any age (so everybody go for a walk on this sunny day!).
  • When evaluating treatment we should start considering other endpoints of success than the 5-year survival rate: when it comes to older people quality of life is the endpoint we should look for.
  • Vaccination is the best success story of public health; let’s not forget this important issue when it comes to health of the elderly.
  • Taking 2007 as a starting point the life expectancy in the next 200 years could increase by 47 years; this means we are getting 4 hours every 24 hours!
  • 50 is the new middle age

Other important points raised (most unanswered)

  • Society needs to adapt in order to allow and promote active aging. But how and who?
  • How much should be based on regulation (e.g. retirement age)?
  • How much of this discussion is still focusing on highly skilled workers (with greater incentives to continue in employment)?
  • Europe’s national income is forecast to double from 2008 to 2060. Maybe someone wants to comment on this very optimistic forecast?

Charlotte Wirl is a social scientist working at the Austrian Public Health Institute (Gesundheit Österreich). She finished her masters degree in sociology in 2004 and her PhD in 2010 at the University of Vienna. Her professional activites include various research activities in the fields of health service, prevention, and health information.

You can read more blogs from the Young Gasteiners on the BMJ blogsite. The rest can be read on