The saying, “You’re only as old as you feel,” may be more than just wishful thinking. According to a new study conducted by Steven E. Mock of the Department of Health Studies and Gerontology at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, peoples’ attitudes toward aging directly influence their psychological well-being. Previous research has shown that positive beliefs about aging lead to feeling younger and negative beliefs make people feel older. “To be specific, those who report feeling relatively old experience lower positive and higher negative affect, lower life satisfaction, lower self-esteem, lower self-efficacy, lower meaning-focused coping, higher pessimism about aging, and higher work strain than those who feel younger relative to their chronological age,” said Mock.
“In contemporary North American culture, popular representations present a largely unflattering impression of the aging process,” Mock said. “In particular, older people are stereotyped as being incompetent across many functional domains.” He added, “These unflattering cultural representations of the aging process affect some middle-aged and older adults’ attitudes toward aging.” For his study, Mock examined data from 1,170 adults, ages 40 and over, and evaluated their attitudes toward aging at baseline and compared that to their overall life satisfaction and affect ten years later. What he found supported previous evidence. “When aging attitudes are less favorable older subjective age predicts lower life satisfaction and increased negative affect,” said Mock. “However, when aging attitudes are more favorable, older subjective age is no longer associated with these measures of psychological well-being.” He believes that these findings could help the aging achieve better psychological health by focusing on positive attributes toward aging. “Not only do people often feel differently than their chronological age, as previous research has established, but it also appears that the consequences of feeling older depend on a person’s subjective interpretations of aging.” He added, “Thus, although it is often said that a person is only as old as he or she feels, it might also be said that feeling old is only as bad as people presume.”
Mock, Steven E., and Richard P. Eibach. “Aging Attitudes Moderate the Effect of Subjective Age on Psychological Well-Being: Evidence From a 10-Year Longitudinal Study.”Psychology and Aging 26.4 (2011): 979-86. Print.
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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