A recent observational study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has found that the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD) has been dramatically lessening over three generations.
After looking at follow-up data on 4,819 participants and their offspring in the Beaver Dam studies (1987-2013), Karen J. Cruickshanks, Ph.D. et al found that the incidence of AMD has been decreasing by a relative 60 percent for each of the current (“Baby Boomers”) and past successive two generations (“The Silent” and “The Greatest”). The generational association has remained significant even after considering age, sex, smoking, educational attainment, exercise, levels of non–HDL cholesterol and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, and use of NSAIDs, statins, and multivitamins.
This suggests that aging Baby Boomers (people born between 1946 and 1964) may experience better retinal health longer than did the two previous generations. Whether that will hold true is yet to be seen, but both the Baby Boomer and the new Generation X populations are already seeing comparable declines in AMD incidence. The improvement may be attributed to better environmental conditions, sanitation, nutrition, and approaches to disease prevention, but identifying cause was not the purpose of this study.
More research is needed to determine cause-and-effect relationship and confirmation of these findings in other ethnic/racial populations.
SOURCE: Generational Differences in the 5-Year Incidence of Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Karen J. Cruickshanks, PhD et al (JAMA Ophthalmol. Published online November 16, 2017. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2017.5001