We tend to equate older age with greater wisdom, experience, and overall expertise. But new research suggests that when it comes to who we trust with our health care, younger might be better.
In fact, if we want to live longer, we may want to look to the benefits of younger doctors.
At least, that’s what Harvard University researchers found in a recent study. It examined more than 700,000 patients age 65 and older on Medicare being treated by about 19,000 physicians between 2011 and 2014. The data shows a clear rise in mortality rates as the age of the doctors increased.
– Patients with doctors age 40 and younger: 30-day mortality rate of 10.8%
– Patients with doctors between ages 40 and 49: 30-day mortality rate of 11.1%
– Patients with doctors between ages 50 and 59: 30-day mortality rate of 11.3%
– Patients with doctors age 60 or older: 30-day mortality rate of 12.1%
Considering that more than a quarter of doctors in the United States are age 60 or older, and 9% of those are over age 70, according to a 2014 census of registered American physicians, the results are quite stark. But the researchers noted the study was only “observational” in nature, with more work necessary to confirm the results.
There was one caveat to the data, too—older doctors with a greater volume of patients didn’t see mortality rate increases. That’s because busier doctors may be more inclined to keep up with the latest medical developments.
“Continuing medical education of physicians could be important, and that continual assessment of outcomes might be useful,” according to researchers, led by Harvard’s Dr. Yusuke Tsugawa.
That is to say that age itself doesn’t necessarily influence quality of care, Tsuwaga told CBS News. Rather, it has more to do with differences in training received. Benefits of younger doctors link to the fact that they’re more likely to be familiar with the latest technologies and techniques.
“Medical technologies are evolving all the time, and it might be harder for older doctors to keep up with the evidence,” Tsuwaga said. “Newer doctors train based on the newest evidence and skills and technologies. Therefore, they may be more up-to-date when they start providing care.”