Monday, February 21, 2011
According to a new study published in the Journal of Public Health Policy, Americans over the age of 65 experienced steep declines in the rate of mortality in the periods that followed the founding of and subsequent improvements to Social Security. The authors urge that as Congress and the President discuss changes to Social Security they consider the benefit of reduced mortality and improved health among older Americans.
"The political discourse around Social Security focuses exclusively on the system's long-range financial problems rather than on the benefits of improved health and reduced poverty," said Peter Arno, Ph.D., the study's lead author and professor and director of the doctoral program in the Department of Health Policy and Management of the School of Health Sciences and Practice at New York Medical College. "If Social Security is put on the chopping block, lawmakers will jeopardize the most important safety net for America's elderly."
Arno - whose work is funded through a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation® Investigator Award in Health Policy Research - and his colleagues analyzed the effect of Social Security on mortality over the course of the 20th century. After controlling for factors such as changes in the economy, access to medical care, and Medicare, they found that although mortality rates for all adults fell during the 20th century, rates of decline for those 65 and older changed more than 50 percent in the decades following the introduction of Social Security in 1940. Rates of decline for the younger age groups remained virtually the same during this period. The trend was particularly pronounced following marked improvements in Social Security benefits between the mid-1960s and the early 1970s.