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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Minnesota Finds Middle-Aged Americans Underestimate their Future Health Care Needs

A new study shows that middle-aged adult Americans (ages 40–65) underestimate their future health care needs for long-term care services and supports. The study found 60 percent think they are unlikely to need care, while in reality only 30 percent will not need care. The research was conducted at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. The findings were published in the January issue of Health Affairs

C Henning-Smith Headshot
[Photo: Ms. Carrie Henning-Smith]

“We found that middle-aged Americans have unrealistically low expectations about their need for future health care, putting added pressure and strain on family members and friends,” said Ms. Carrie Henning-Smith, lead author and Ph.D. candidate in the School of Public Health. “The public needs to be aware that most people will need care and there’s a need to plan ahead.”

According to the study, expectations around future care vary according to whether respondents currently live with others or live alone. Respondents who live alone are most likely to say it’s “very likely” they will need care, whereas respondents living with minor children are the least likely to expect they will need care in the future.

Other key findings:

“Our current long-term care system is overly stressed and we need to figure out how we’re going to care for the millions of middle-aged Americans as they get older,” said Ms. Henning-Smith. “Policymakers should be concerned about this situation, especially from a budget sense. It’s important for them to encourage middle-aged Americans to make plans for future care needs, including discussing long-term care wishes with family members, saving money for care, and educating themselves on available care options.”