Positive Outlook Improves Health as We Age

Seeing growing older as a positive rather than a negative experience is being shown by researchers to be correlated with longer lives and less illness. The latest study from Yale School of Public Health researchers, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, found  that seniors who hold a positive bias are 44% more likely to recover from disability brought on by an injury of illness. Becca Levy, PhD, Director of the Social and Behavioral Sciences Division of Yale’s School of Public Health and colleagues followed 598 people over a 10-year period, with an average age of 79, who were free of disability at the start of the study.

Dr. Levy has been looking at the association between perceptions of aging and health since the mid-1990s. Examining a database of 660 adults aged 50 and older, who were followed for 23 years (1975-1998), Dr. Levy found that those with positive age stereotypes lived 7.5 years longer than those with negative stereotypes. Results of that study were published in 2002 in The Journal of Personal and Social Psychology.

The Yale and other researchers suggest that people who maintain a positive attitude engage in healthier lifestyle choices, including physical activity, healthy eating, and less smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. Dr. Levy has hypothesized that positive age stereotypes are associated with a greater sense of control that enhances seniors’ sense of self-efficacy.