Attitudes Toward Aging may Affect Well-being

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.”

Reference:
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.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Dorothy

    Dorothy

    December 19th, 2011 at 12:30 PM

    This is so true! I had one grandmother who never let the whole aging process slow her down. Sure she had some health problems, but just like a good watch she took a lickin and kept on tickin! She still drove at 95, and wasn’t too bad at it either! I hope to have that same positive attitude about aging like she did. On the other hand my mom’s mom had a terrible attitude about aging and was down and out all of the time. Let’s just say that while I loved her dearly, that is not who I will choose to emulate as I get older.

  • Jack

    Jack

    December 19th, 2011 at 1:11 PM

    I’ve quite a few old but fit people in my extended family and although many of them went past their retirement age a decade or two ago they go about their lives very well and with almost no help from anybody.Its always heartening to see such individuals because it gives you a hope that you can remain just as functional at their age.

    It scares me to see old people who need help and are unable to do their basic things,because I do not want to be dependent no matter how old I am.

  • andre2011

    andre2011

    December 20th, 2011 at 5:14 AM

    We tell everyone that getting older is great, fantastic, but then look at how we show that. We treat them bad and then those of us who are not all that old yet are scrambling for ways to stop the aging process, or at least the look of it, all together.. Botox, fillers, all of that medical cosmetic stuff that so many people are flocking to these days. Yet we tell those who are actually already older that it is all ok. Kind of some conflicting message that we have going on in society there.

  • Warren Pettitt

    Warren Pettitt

    December 20th, 2011 at 9:27 PM

    I love the quote “you don’t stop playing because you get old…you get old because you stop playing.” Its not the aging process that gives us trouble – its buying into the lie that what matters most is the outside.

    Warren

  • luis

    luis

    December 20th, 2011 at 11:45 PM

    Mom and dad r in their 50s and they already think they r old! I keep telling them they r causing harm to themselves with such thinking but they never listen. I think I should show them this article.

  • Andrea Scott

    Andrea Scott

    December 23rd, 2011 at 1:38 AM

    When I get old I’m joining the Purple Hat Club and going to be one of those ladies that lives it up. I’m sure not going to let myself rot away in some nursing home, waiting to die. I think once you go into such places, you go downhill.

  • Pam Cathcart

    Pam Cathcart

    December 23rd, 2011 at 2:04 AM

    You get old and jolly men like St. Nick and you get miserable old men everyone hates to the back teeth. If you can accept aging gracefully and use it as a time to relax and reflect you’ll feel a lot better about yourself in the end. We should take old age in our stride and not view it as a burden to complain about. Count yourself lucky to made it to a ripe old age.

  • L. Flynn

    L. Flynn

    December 23rd, 2011 at 2:17 AM

    I’m not that old but I know you can’t do anything about Father Time when he comes knocking on your door with your birthday card. You shouldn’t accept old age, you should embrace it. I was brought up to respect our elders and know they have a million stories and wise words to share. We need to all live up to that in our golden years when the time comes.

  • Allie Roy

    Allie Roy

    December 23rd, 2011 at 2:54 AM

    @Pam Cathcart: My granny became old and bitter in her old age when I was about ten years old. One day when we were visiting her, she called me into her living room for a moment and said “Sweetie, I’m not actually turning old and mean. I just don’t want everyone to miss me too much when I’m gone because I’ll always be watching you.” Then she gave me a $20 note and told me not to tell Mommy. She died three years later but we missed her anyway.

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