As you grow older, having a positive attitude about aging may make you more resilient to stress, a new study suggests.

One of the study’s coauthors, Jennifer Bellingtier, of North Carolina State University in Raleigh, said:

“Previous research has generally found the same thing, a more positive attitude is beneficial. People with positive attitudes are less likely to be hospitalized and tend to live longer.” [1]

The Details

For the study, researchers had 43 people between the ages of 60 and 96 each complete the same questionnaire for 8 consecutive days. The questionnaire asked participants about their experience with aging in general, like feeling more or less useful or more or less happy now than when they were younger.

The participants were also asked about stressful events in their lives and negative emotions like fear, irritability, or stress.

The researchers found that participants with more positive attitudes about growing older generally tended to report consistent emotional states throughout the duration of the study. Oppositely, those who had more negative attitudes demonstrated fluctuating emotions depending on their stressors.

Said Bellingtier:

“We found that people in the study who had more positive attitudes toward aging were more resilient in response to stress — meaning that there wasn’t a significant increase in negative emotions.” [2]

What Worries Seniors the Most

In 2015, the National Council on Aging did a survey of Americans age 60 and over, along with various professionals who work with the elderly, to get a better look at the concerns and needs of the country’s aging population. Here’s a look at the concerns weighing most heavily on the minds of older Americans:

  • Maintaining good health
  • Staying in their current home
  • Giving up driving
  • Financial security
  • Sudden bills
  • Cutting costs
  • Social ties
  • Mental health
  • Social support [3]

The True Power of Positivity

Having a positive attitude about aging has also been shown to have a positive effect on people, physically.

Senior author Shevaun Neupert said of the new research:

“This tells us that the way we think about aging has very real consequences for how we respond to difficult situations when we’re older. That affects our quality of life and may also have health ramifications. For example, more adverse emotional responses to stress have been associated with increased cardiovascular health risks.” [4]

positive_happy_guy_735_460In April, a study published in the journal Psychology and Aging reported that middle-aged people who see the good in getting older are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. The study also found that middle-aged people who view old age as all doom and gloom are more likely to have dementia-like changes to their brains years later.

Positive thinking, in general, has been shown to cut your risk of stroke and improve your overall health.

Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of optimism having a negative consequence on mental or physical health.

Plenty of other studies have produced similar findings. One particularly interesting study in The Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that seniors become what they think when it comes to aging.

For example, when seniors believe that growing old means becoming useless, helpless, or devalued, they are more likely to have memory loss and poor physical functioning, are less likely to seek preventative medical care, and die earlier.

However, older adults who associated old age with wisdom, self-realization, and satisfaction had a higher level of overall functioning.

In fact, the study found that people with a positive bias towards aging were 44% more likely to fully recover from a bout of disability. These individuals typically lived an average of 7.5 years longer than those with negative stereotypes. [5]

A positive attitude was known to be good for your health long before researchers set about studying it in the lab. It’s even in the Bible. Proverbs 17:22 says:

“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.”

Life really is what you make of it.

Sources:

[1] Reuters

[2] Healthline

[3] U.S. News & World Report

[4] Consumer Affairs

[5] International New York Times


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Post written byJulie Fidler:
Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.