04/18/2013 11:27 pm ET

Adults Today Are Less Metabolically Healthy Than Past Generations, Study Finds

Adults today are less "metabolically healthy" -- meaning health with regard to cholesterol, body weight and blood pressure -- than adults from past generations, according to a new study in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

"The prevalence of obesity in our youngest generation of men and women at the mean age of 40 is similar to that of our oldest generation at the mean age of 55," study researcher Gerben Hulsegge, of the the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, said in a statement. "This means that this younger generation is '15 years ahead' of the older generation and will be exposed to their obesity for a longer time."

The study included data from 6,377 people who were part of the Doetinchem Cohort Study in the Netherlands. People in the study were examined for their cholesterol, body weight and blood pressure starting in 1987, and were followed up again six, 11 and 16 years later.

Researchers found that for all the study participants, being overweight, obesity and high blood pressure all got more common through time. But, they did find that more of those who were born later experienced these conditions, compared with people born 10 years before.

Specifically, 40 percent of men who were in their 30s in the first analysis of metabolic risk factors were considered overweight. But when researchers looked at the data for 11 years after that analysis, 52 percent of the next generation of men in their 30s were considered overweight.

Researchers surmised in the study that "the lifelong exposure to especially obesity will increase. As a consequence, more elderly of the future will develop overweight-related diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease."

Another thing younger adults are experiencing more than older generations? Stress, according to a survey from the American Psychological Association. The "Stress in America" survey showed that people between ages 18 and 33 report higher stress levels than the national average.