Tags: senior | optimism | health

Poll: The Older We Get, the Better We Feel

Wednesday, 12 Dec 2012 09:49 AM


Old age may be viewed by the young as a period of decline — in physical, social, and psychological functioning. But a new survey of seniors themselves finds the view from over the hill is surprisingly positive, with most reporting better mental and physical health, less depression and “greater optimism and resilience” than in their younger years.
The poll, by researchers from the University of California-San Diego School of Medicine and Stanford University, surveyed 1,006 older adults — from 50 to 99 years of age — by phone and a written survey on their experiences with chronic disease and disability, as well as more subjective criteria such as social engagement and self-assessment of their overall health.
The results of the so-called Successful Aging Evaluation (SAGE) study, published online in the American Journal of Psychiatry, showed most seniors see themselves as resilient and positive about life, even in cases when chronic diseases have taken a toll on their physical and psychological states.
"Even though older age was closely associated with worse physical and cognitive functioning, it was also related to better mental functioning," said researcher Colin Depp, an associate professor of psychiatry at UC-San Diego School of Medicine.
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For the survey, seniors were asked to rate how well they had "successfully aged," using a 10-point scale. The study found people with low physical functioning but high resilience, had self-ratings of successful aging similar to those of physical healthy people with low resilience. The self-ratings of individuals with low physical functioning but no or minimal depression had scores comparable to those of physically healthy people with moderate to severe depression.
"It was clear to us that, even in the midst of physical or cognitive decline, individuals in our study reported feeling that their well-being had improved with age," said lead researcher Dr. Dilip V. Jeste, director of UC-San Diego's Stein Institute for Research on Aging and the president of the American Psychiatric Association (which was not involved in this study). “This counterintuitive increase in well-being with aging persisted even after accounting for variables like income, education and marriage.”
Jeste suggested the take-home message for clinicians is that there is an important role for psychiatry in enhancing successful aging in older adults.
"Perfect physical health is neither necessary nor sufficient," Jeste said. "There is potential for enhancing successful aging by fostering resilience and treating or preventing depression."
About 40 million Americans are over the age of 65, with the fastest-growing segment of the population over 80 years old.
This study was sponsored, in part, by the National Institutes of Health.
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Most seniors report better mental health, less depression, and greater optimism in old age than in their younger years.
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Wednesday, 12 Dec 2012 09:49 AM
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