Growing old is a goal of most people. But just how old you’ll get could depend not only on your attitude about ageing, but also, the attitude of those around you.
A new study by Orb Media has concluded that people with a positive attitude about getting older live longer and have better mental health.
Those who look at ageing as a bad thing “are more likely to suffer a heart attack, a stroke or die several years sooner”.
Why is healthy ageing important?
Because, according to Orb, by 2050, nearly one out of six people in the world will be over 65, and close to half a billion will be older than 80.
Dr Becca Levy, a professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health in the United States, has been researching attitudes on ageing since the 1990s.
In one of her studies, she found that Americans with more positive views on ageing, who were tracked over decades, lived 7.5 years longer than those with negative views.
She attributed this to stress levels. Studies have shown that chronic stress can not only age your brain, but also change a person on a cellular level and accelerate the ageing process.
Orb’s study also found that a culture’s attitude towards its older citizens can have a profound effect.
It asked 150,000 people in 101 countries about their experiences and opinions regarding ageing and the elderly.
Using a scale of one (very low respect) to five (very high respect), Orb found that the overall average global attitude is 3.75.
Averages in individual countries range from 2.75 to 4.8.
Hungary and Uzbekistan tied for the top spot with 4.8.
Pakistan, with its longstanding tradition of respect for its elders, was among the countries that scored highest.
“This attitude towards ageing is a much healthier embrace of the ageing process, rather than having all of your notions of well-being and attractiveness and self-worth being tied so closely to youth, ” said Dr Faiza Mushtaq, an assistant professor of sociology at the Institute of Business Administration in Karachi, Pakistan.
Dr Levy stresses that people can ignore cultural stereotypes and decide for themselves how they want to approach old age.
Those who watch less TV, participate less in social media and have more resistant personalities are more likely to hold more positive views of ageing, she said. – By Nancy Clanton/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Tribune News Service
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