Gallup survey shows deep discomfort among Americans about retirement

Only 15 percent of U.S. adults believe the nation will be able to adequately care for its aging population, and nearly three-quarters (73%) of adults under the age of 65 are concerned that the Medicare program may not exist by the time they are able to qualify for it. This is according to survey results released this week by Gallup.

In conjunction with health care nonprofit West Health, the organizations released their 2024 Survey on Aging in America report based on data compiled from both traditional mail and web-based surveys from Nov. 13, 2023 to Jan. 8, 2024.

Concerns about the solvency of the Medicare program are growing. Nearly three-quarters of survey respondents are worried that Medicare will not be there for them when they are able to qualify for it, up from 67% in 2022. This share rose most acutely among those ages 50 to 64, according to the survey results.

But concerns over Medicare pale in comparison to the level of concern related to the Social Security program, with 80% of respondents under 62 and 86% of people ages 40 to 49 afraid it will not exist by the time they can begin taking benefits.

“Threats to Medicare and Social Security loom large, and people are worried policymakers won’t do enough to protect and strengthen them,” Timothy Lash, president of West Health, said in the report. “These safety net programs are part of the fabric of aging that millions of older Americans rely upon, so any potential disruption or question mark around them is cause for alarm and deserving of greater attention and action from policymakers.”

Despite population trends showing that the U.S. is growing older at a faster rate, most respondents do not feel that the U.S. government is prioritizing policy issues that impact care for the elderly.

“When asked in the survey how much the government prioritizes issues affecting older Americans, 74% say ‘not very much’ or ‘not at all,’” the results explained. “This sentiment is felt by 80% of those 65 and older. Over half (57%) of Americans report they are either ‘somewhat more likely’ (37%) or ‘much more likely’ (20%) to support a candidate for public office that makes issues affecting older Americans a top priority.”

Such a sentiment increases with the age of the respondent and is highest (77%) among those ages 65 or older, the results showed.

A vast majority of respondents also said that the U.S. will not be able to adequately care for its aging population. This sentiment is compounded by 2018 U.S. Census Bureau data showing that Americans ages 65 and older will outnumber those under the age of 18 for the first time in 2034 (77 million to 76.5 million). This would mark the first such occurrence in U.S. history and impacts nearly one-quarter of the country’s total population.

The full survey included a sample of 5,149 adults from all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Panelists who are 65 or older “were oversampled to increase the stability of results for this segment of the population,” Gallup explained. Qualitative interviews followed up the initial responses over a few weeks in March.

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