Top Concerns About Aging: Failing Health, Mental Ability

Americans Point to Medical Research as Key to Healthy Future
Thursday, February 2, 2006

WASHINGTON—Feb. 2, 2006—Americans worry most about staying healthy as they ponder old age, but losing their mental faculty is their biggest fear, according to a national poll released today by Research!America and PARADE magazine.

Declining health is the number-one concern (37%) about getting older, followed by financial worries (23%) and dependence on others (6%). Asked their greatest fear about growing old, Americans mentioned losing mental capacity twice as often as declining physical ability (62% vs. 29%, respectively).

On the positive side, the poll-which is published in part in this Sunday's issue of PARADE-finds that 84% believe they can do things to stay healthy as they age, and 83% say they are currently taking steps to do so. Of those, more than half (56%) say they are exercising and 26% are watching their diet.

"Americans have concerns about aging and health, but they have an even stronger belief that healthy aging is possible with preventive steps like exercise and a healthy diet," said Lee Kravitz, editor-in-chief of PARADE. "Advances from medical research have brought a better quality of life to all of us, and Americans particularly see its potential as they think about their later years."

The poll finds Americans place a high value on the promise of medical research. Fully 96% say it is important that we invest in research to prevent, treat and cure diseases and disabilities that primarily affect older people.

Americans are optimistic that scientists will conquer some of the nation's most debilitating diseases. Asked what medical breakthroughs they think will occur within the next 20 years, Americans expect to see cures for diabetes (65%), Parkinson's (59%), Alzheimer's (54%), heart disease (52%), cancer (48%) and HIV/AIDS (47%).

If they could pick one health problem that needs to be solved, Americans most often mentioned cancer (42%), followed by heart disease, Alzheimer's and HIV/AIDS (9% each).

"Even with the financial worries people have about retirement, what Americans want more than anything later in life is to enjoy good health," said Mary Woolley, president, Research!America. "As we see in other Research!America polls, Americans understand that medical research is vital to living long, healthy lives."

Research!America is the nation's largest not-for-profit public education and advocacy alliance working to make medical and health research-including research to prevent disease, disability and injury and to promote health-a much higher national priority. Research!America has been gauging Americans' attitudes toward medical and health research for more than a decade.

Each Sunday, PARADE, the largest circulation magazine in the world, has a conversation with America-educating, entertaining and empowering its 75 million readers. For more than 60 years, PARADE's columns, in-depth articles and inspiring stories have helped people to affect change in their lives, their communities and the world. PARADE is distributed in all 50 states and the District of Columbia through more than 340 newspapers.

Charlton Research Company conducted the telephone survey Oct. 23-Nov. 3, 2005, among 1,000 adults nationwide, for Research!America and PARADE. The sample was proportionate to the country's demographics, including age, geography, gender and ethnicity. The survey has a sampling error of ±3.1 percentage points.


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Media Contacts

Tim Haynes
Senior Director of Communications 

We have health challenges in this country that science will provide answers for if given the chance and we haven't given science that opportunity
Mary Woolley, President and CEO, Research!America