Cost of groceries hitting wallets and health

Three-quarters of people over age 50 in the United States say the rising cost of groceries has affected them somewhat or a lot, and nearly a third say they’re eating less healthily because of increased food costs, according to new poll findings.

But food cost inflation has hit certain groups of older adults harder, the poll suggests – especially individuals who rate their physical or mental health as fair or poor, and those in lower-income households or with fewer years of formal education.

The new findings come from a national poll conducted in late July by the University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging, based at the university’s Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.

“For our most vulnerable older adults, the huge increase we’ve seen in food costs could make a bad situation worse,” said Dr. Preeti Malani, director of the poll and a physician at Michigan Medicine, the university’s academic medical center. “These new findings suggest a need for better support of the food needs of adults over 50.”

AARP is among supporters of the National Poll on Healthy Aging.

More than a third of people age 50 to 80 say the rising cost of groceries has impacted them a lot. Overall, the percentages saying this were higher among those who rate their physical health as fair or poor (46 percent), those who rate their mental health as fair or poor (58 percent), those with household incomes under $30,000 (56 percent), and those who have a high school education or less (48 percent).

The pinch of inflation is having a direct impact on what food older adults are buying. Thirty-six percent of those 50 to 64 said their diet is less healthy because of rising costs, compared with 24 percent of those 65 to 80.