Bottom Line: The risk of developing age-related macular degeneration is much less in the Baby Boom (1946-1964) and later generations than in earlier generations, for unclear reasons.
Why The Research Is Interesting: Because of increased life expectancy and an increase in the elderly population with aging of the Baby Boom generation , large numbers of adults are expected to develop age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in older adults.
Who and When: 4,819 participants from studies that examined residents of Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, who were between the ages of 43 to 84 in 1987 and 1988 and their adult children who were ages 21 to 84 in 2005 through 2008. The participants were at risk for developing AMD based on eye images obtained when they entered the studies.
How (Study Design): This is an observational study. Observational studies cannot prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
Authors: Karen J. Cruickshanks, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison, and coauthors
Results: The risk of AMD decreased by a relative 60 percent for each generation.
Study Limitations: These groups were mostly non-Hispanic white individuals and the results may not be generalizable to other racial/ethnic groups.
Study Conclusions: The five-year risk for AMD declined by generation throughout the 20th century. Factors that explain this decline in risk are not known.