How we think about ageing has been shown to have a very significant impact on how long we live. One of the first pieces of research to illustrate the power of negative attitudes in this context was carried out by a researcher called Becca Levy. She looked at how people involved in a long-term study on ageing had answered five questions on their attitudes towards their own ageing . Based on their answers, she was able to divide the participants in two groups – those who felt positive about their own ageing and those who felt negatively about it. When these were compared with their death records over 20 years later, she found that, on average, people with the positive attitudes towards their own ageing lived 7.5 years longer than those who expressed negative attitudes! An extra 7.5 years of life is something that many of the lifestyle changes commonly advocated for a long and healthy life cannot match (e.g. stopping smoking, more exercise, lowering cholesterol and achieving a healthy weight for your height etc)!
The researchers concluded with a strong call to action to address the ageist stereotyping –
“If a previously unidentified virus was found to diminish life expectancy by over 7 years, considerable effort would probably be devoted to identifying the cause and implementing a remedy. In the present case, one of the likely causes is known: societally sanctioned denigration of the aged. A comprehensive remedy requires that the denigrating views and actions directed at elderly targets undergo delegitimization by the same society that has been generating them.“
To look at the original research click this link