8 ways a positive view of aging promotes better health

Excerpt: People who feel and see themselves as younger than their chronological age tend to experience better health and longevity. A positive view of aging bolsters brain and heart health, builds psychological resilience and preserves hearing. A youthful outlook is also associated with lower depression and hospitalization risks, fewer aches and pains, and less frailty.

You’re as young as you feel. Is the adage true or just wishful thinking?

As it turns out, studies show people who feel and see themselves as younger than their chronological age tend to experience better health and longevity.* A Yale University study found that people with a positive view of aging live 7.5 years longer on average than those with a negative view. *

Fortunately, simply strategies such as increasing physical activity and supporting adults in feeling they have more control in their daily life, have been shown to help seniors see themselves as more youthful,* reported a University of North Carolina study. In fact, a 2022 University of British Columbia study found that when people’s attitudes about their own aging improved over four years, their health also improved on 27 of 35 health and well-being measures.*

Here are some of the ways a positive view of aging contributes to better physical and mental health:

  1. Bolsters heart health. People who had a positive view of aging were at lower risk of developing heart disease and stroke, while those with a negative view had a 40% higher risk of developing heart conditions over time,* according to a 2021 Journals of Gerontology study.
  2. Boosts brain health and memory. Older adults who felt younger than their actual age scored higher on memory tests and MRI scans revealed fewer signs of age-related brain changes, such as reduced grey-matter volume,* reported a Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience study.
  3. Builds psychological resilience. Seniors with a positive attitude towards aging were more resilient in handling stress and challenging situations, contributing to better health and quality of life,* reported a Journals of Gerontology study.
  4. Preserves hearing. Hearing loss is the third most prevalent chronic condition in adults over 65,* according to Yale University. Older adults with a positive outlook on aging were less likely to develop hearing loss several years later,* reported a Journals of Gerontology study. A University of Toronto study found that dispelling negative stereotypes about aging can help older adults to improve their hearing in daily life.*
  5. Eases physical aches and pains. A 2021 Oregon State University study found people with a positive self-perception of aging had fewer physical health symptoms on stressful days than those with a negative view, who reported almost three times as many symptoms.*
  6. Reduces depression risk. Older adults with a positive view of aging had a lower risk of developing major depression and anxiety disorders,* reported a Social Sciences & Medicine study.
  7. Preserves strength and prevent frailty. People with a positive outlook on aging were less likely to become physically frail,* according to a Trinity College Dublin study.
  8. Lowers hospitalization risk. A Health Psychology study found individuals who felt younger than their actual age were up to 25% less likely to be hospitalized over the next two to 10 years.* Study participants who felt more youthful also rehabilitated and recuperated better after being hospitalized for fractures and strokes,* reported Bar-Ilan University.

*The following sources provide references for this blog, in order of appearance:

  1. CNN Health. “The secret to a long, happy, health life? Think age-positive.” (2019), online: https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/03/health/respect-toward-elderly-leads-to-long-life-intl/index.html
  2. Science Daily. “You’re only as old as you think and do.” (2018), online: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/08/180809141122.htm
  3. UBC News. “When people’s attitudes about aging improve, better health may follow.” (2022), online: https://news.ubc.ca/2022/02/09/when-peoples-attitudes-about-aging-improve-better-health-may-follow/
  4. Journals of Gerontology. “Subjective aging and incident cardiovascular disease.” (2021), online: https://academic.oup.com/psychsocgerontology/article/76/5/910/5898534
  5. Science Daily. “Feeling young could mean your brain is aging more slowly.” (2018), online: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180703110014.htm
  6. North Carolina State University. “Good attitudes about aging help seniors handle stress.” (2016), online: https://news.ncsu.edu/2016/08/attitudes-aging-stress-2016/
  7. Yale University. “Hearing decline predicted by elders’ stereotypes.” (2006), online: https://academic.oup.com/psychsocgerontology/article/61/2/P82/558391
  8. University of Toronto. “Stereotypes around aging can negatively impact hearing.” (2015), online:https://medicalxpress.com/news/2015-12-stereotypes-aging-negatively-impact-memory.html#:~:text=%22Those%20feelings%20are%20often%20rooted%20in%20stereotypes%20about,understanding%20the%20factors%20that%20influence%20their%20daily%20lives.%22
  9. HealthDay News. “Do you feel old? It could be aging you.” (2022), online: https://www.usnews.com/news/health-news/articles/2022-01-18/do-you-feel-old-it-could-be-aging-you
  10. Oregon State University. “Self-perceptions of aging and stress have significant impact on physical health, OSU study finds.” (2022), online: https://today.oregonstate.edu/news/self-perceptions-aging-and-stress-have-significant-impact-physical-health-osu-study-finds
  11. Social Sciences and Medicine. “Active coping shields against negative aging self-stereotypes contributing to psychiatric conditions.” (2019), online: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S027795361930108X#:~:text=As%20the%20negativity%20of%20age%20stereotypes%20increased%2C%20risk,conditions%20are%20often%20falsely%20considered%20inherent%20to%20aging.
  12. Psychology Today. “Positive attitudes about aging may be a ‘Fountain of Youth.” (2016), online: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201601/positive-attitudes-about-aging-may-be-fountain-youth
  13. Science Daily. “Feeling older increases risk of hospitalization, study says.” (2016), online: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/02/160211190008.htm
  14. Science Daily. “The younger we feel, the better we rehabilitate, research shows.” (2022), online: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/06/220622113139.htm