Category Archives: Health

Effect of stress reduction through meditation on mortality of older people with high blood pressure

Psychosocial stress contributes to high blood pressure and subsequent heart attacks and mortality. Researchers in this study evaluated, over the long term, all-cause and cause-specific mortality in older people who had high blood pressure and who participated in randomised controlled trials that included meditation and other behavioural stress-decreasing interventions.  Compared with controls, the meditation group showed a 23% decrease in all-cause mortality. Further analyses showed a 30% decrease in the rate of cardiovascular mortality and a 49% decrease in the rate of mortality. These results suggest that a specific stress-decreasing approach used in the prevention and control of high blood pressure, such as meditation programmes, may contribute to decreased mortality from all causes and cardiovascular disease in older subjects who have systemic high blood pressure.

For access to the original study click here

How negative ageing stereotypes create dependency among older adults

This interesting study examined the effects of negative ageing stereotypes on self-reported loneliness, risk-taking, subjective health, and help-seeking behaviour in a sample of older adults. The aim of the study was to show the detrimental effects of negative aging stereotypes on older adults’ self-evaluations and behaviours, the well known increases in dependency often observed in health care environments (including hospitals). The researchers explored the effects of positive, neutral or negative stereotypes. As predicted, negative stereotype activation resulted in lower levels of risk taking, subjective health and extraversion, and in higher feelings of loneliness and a more frequent help-seeking behaviour. These findings suggest that the mere activation of negative stereotypes can have broad and deleterious effects on older individuals’ self-evaluation and functioning, which in turn may contribute to the often observed dependency among older people.

For further information click here

Reducing cardiovascular stress with positive self stereotypes of ageing

It is increasingly recognised that stress contributes to the development of heart disease. In this fascinating study, researchers examined whether ageing self-stereotypes, or older individuals’ beliefs about elderly people, could influence cardiovascular function. Older people were subliminally exposed to either positive or negative ageing stereotypes. Then all participants faced mathematical and verbal challenges. Those exposed to the negative aging stereotypes demonstrated a heightened cardiovascular response to stress, measured by systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, and heart rate, compared with those exposed to positive aging stereotypes. It appears that the negative aging stereotypes acted as direct stressors, whereas the positive aging stereotypes reduced cardiovascular stress. These findings indicate that negative ageing stereotypes may contribute to adverse health outcomes in older people without their awareness. The results also suggest that positive ageing stereotypes could be used in interventions to reduce cardiovascular stress.

To explore the research further click here

Optimism linked to better health in later life

Expecting good things to happen appears to instigate a self fulfilling prophecy leading to better health and well being. A recent study has found that higher optimism increases the chances of staying healthy in later life.

Data came from the US Health and Retirement Study which looked at a nationally representative sample of 5,698 aged 50 and older. The participants undertook face-to-face interviews in 2006 and 2008, as well as follow-up measures every two years until 2014.

The results revealed that higher optimism at start of the study was linked to an increased chance of staying healthy (good physical and cognitive functioning and no major chronic diseases) over the next six to eight years, even after accounting for other factors such as race, income, depression, alcohol use, smoking, physical activity, and body weight. Participants who scored in the top quartile for optimism were 24% more likely to remain healthy as compared to those in the bottom quartile for optimism.

To access the research https://academic.oup.com/aje/article-abstract/188/6/1084/5369505 (pay wall in force)

Greater anxiety about death associated with less attention to own health care needs

The relationship of death anxiety/fear to health beliefs and behaviors was examined. Using a variety of survey tools – the modified Death Anxiety Scale (DAS), the Death Anxiety Questionnaire (DAQ), the Death Attitude Profile (DAP), the Health Opinion Survey (HOS), and an item asking whether the participant had visited a physician at least once a year for a routine examination, the results indicated that those showing higher levels of anxiety about death were less likely to be actively involved in their health care. 

To read the research https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07481189608253409

Relationship between age identity and pessimism about cognitive ageing

Drawing on past studies of age identity, this research examined whether feeling older was associated with more pessimistic views about cognitive ageing. Using respondents aged 55 years and older in the Midlife Development in the United States study, researchers estimated a series of linear regression models to predict people’s dispositions toward their cognitive ageing. The main comparison is whether the effects of age identity on cognitive aging differ for men and women. Beyond the effects of chronological age, older age identities were associated with more pessimistic dispositions about cognitive ageing. This relationship, however, was found only among women. Age identity shapes cognitive ageing dispositions, though the gendered nature of this relationship remains somewhat unclear. The findings give further evidence about the far-reaching implications of age identity for successful ageing and suggest that future work could explain how subjective aging processes may differ by gender.

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/26282185_Age_Identity_Gender_and_Perceptions_of_Decline_Does_Feeling_Older_Lead_to_Pessimistic_Dispositions_About_Cognitive_Aging

Impact of stereotypical attitudes on health and wellbeing

Ageism largely remains a socially tolerated form of discrimination. From birthday cards to anti-ageing advertisements and comedy sketches, stereotypical ideas about older people and the ageing process abound. While generally trivialized in mainstream culture, this article argues that ageism is, in fact, a serious matter. Drawing from a growing evidence base, the article highlights the significant and largely detrimental impact that ageist stereotypes have on people’s outcomes in later life. It then goes on to analyse some of the possible mechanisms through which stereotypes generate this effect, and finally concludes with a brief outline of some of the psychosocial interventions that might enable older people to weaken or neutralize the toxic effects of internalized negative self-perceptions of ageing. Note: the structural and power relationship dimensions of ageism, while hugely important, are not considered within this article as its focus is on the psychological and emotional dimensions and their impact on personal health and well-being outcomes, an aspect of ageist stereotyping that is seldom discussed.

Access to article here https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03060497.2017.1334986

Positive attitudes towards ageing protect against dementia

One of the strongest risk factors for dementia is the ε4 variant of the APOE gene. Yet, many who carry it never develop dementia. The current study examined for the first time whether positive age beliefs that are acquired from the culture may reduce the risk of developing dementia among older individuals, including those who are APOE ε4 carriers. The cohort consisted of 4,765 Health and Retirement Study participants who were aged 60 or older and dementia-free at baseline. As predicted, in the total sample those with positive age beliefs at baseline were significantly less likely to develop dementia, after adjusting for relevant covariates. Among those with APOE ε4, those with positive age beliefs were 49.8% less likely to develop dementia than those with negative age beliefs. The results of this study suggest that positive age beliefs, which are modifiable and have been found to reduce stress, can act as a protective factor, even for older individuals at high risk of dementia.

Access to the research paper here https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0191004

Optimism associated with exceptional longevity

Optimism is a psychological attribute characterised as the general expectation that good things will happen, or the belief that the future will be favorable because one can control important outcomes. It is an attitude to life which can be significantly undermined by the challenges often experience in later life. Numerous studies have reported that more optimistic individuals are less likely to suffer from chronic diseases and die prematurely. The results of this new study go further and suggest that optimism is specifically related to 11 to 15% longer life spans, on average, and to greater odds of achieving “exceptional longevity,” that is, living to the age of 85 or beyond. These relations were independent of socioeconomic status, health conditions, depression, social integration, and health behaviors (e.g., smoking, diet, and alcohol use).

These findings indicate that optimism is an important psychosocial resource for people to pay attention to and develop in later life. This is especially important as ageist stereotypes can begin to be internalised as people age.

Access to the original research here (behind a paywall) https://www.pnas.org/content/116/37/18357

Having sex in older age can make you happier and healthier

Sex is an essential part of human relationships – no matter what age. Contrary to many ageist assumptions older people do still have ! Recent research found that 85% of men aged 60–69 report being sexually active – as do 60% of those aged 70–79 and 32% of those aged 80 and over. Women were found to be less sexually active as they aged, but studies show that, just like men, many women also want to continue to have sex as they get older. 

Importantly, the research found that decline in sexual activity, desire, or function in older age appears to be an important indicator of future adverse health outcomes

For example, men who reported a decline in sexual desire were more likely to go on to develop cancer or other chronic illnesses that limited their daily activities. Men and women who reported a decrease in the frequency of sexual activities were also more likely to experience a deterioration in how they rated their level of health. And men with erectile dysfunction were also more likely to be diagnosed with cancer or coronary heart disease. It’s important to note, however, that changes in sexual desire or function could have been a result of early-stage, undiagnosed disease.

The research also found that older adults enjoy life more when they are sexually active. And those who experience a decline in sexual activity report poorer well-being than those who maintain their levels of sexual desire, activity and function in later life. We also found that men who are sexually active in later life continue to have better cognitive performance compared to those who don’t. The research also suggests that people who engage in sexual intercourse with their partner are also likely to share a closer relationship. And closeness to one’s partner is linked with better mental health.

Access to the full research paper here https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10508-019-1443-4