Trends in the Health Status of Older Koreans


  • Soong-Nang Jang PhD,

    1. From the Department of Society, Human Development and Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts
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  • Dong-Hyun Kim MD, PhD

    1. Department of Social and Preventive Medicine
    2. Research Institute of Clinical Epidemiology, Hallym University College of Medicine, Chuncheon, Republic of Korea.
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Address correspondence to Dong-Hyun Kim, MD, PhD, Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, College of Medicine, Hallym University, Okcheon-dong 1, Chuncheon, Kangwon-do, Republic of Korea. E-mail:


Several recent studies have suggested that mortality, disability, and self-rated health in older Americans have improved in last decade, but data from rapidly aging Asians remain sparse, and it is unclear that improvement extends to various health outcomes among older Korean populations. Trends in mortality, morbidity, disability, health behavior, and self-rated health in older Koreans were assessed. Data were obtained from the National Death Statistics (1983–2006) and three representative and repeated cross-sectional nationwide surveys: the National Elderly Activity Status and Welfare Needs Survey, the National Long-term Care Needs Survey, and the Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. All-cause mortality and disability decreased rapidly among older Koreans over the survey years, although some dimensions of health, including mortality from cancer, ischemic heart disease, and diabetes mellitus, have continued to deteriorate during this same period. Data on self-rated health have also confirmed this trend toward diminished health status. These results are not consistent with the theory of compression of morbidity. Given the complexity and controversies characterizing health changes in the older population, continuing examination of the latest information about various aspects of mortality, disability, morbidity, and health behavior is necessary for the development of future improvements in healthy life expectancies in older Koreans.