Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Living Longer Through Positive Self-Perception
Most of us know that Negative Ageism becomes internalized and has an increasingly negative impact on life satisfaction and happiness. Having a clear sense of who we are, including positive ageism has the opposite effect. In fact through middle to late life the more positive we are about ourselves the longer we will likely live. Becca Levy et al gathered the material cited in this blog entry. Their research article[i] is cited below.
Their investigation concentrates on “…examining whether self-perceptions of aging influence survival”. First they remind us that we acquire negative aging stereotypes when are relatively young. All along, since my youth there have been movements struggling against prejudice related to race and gender. Ageism still has little counter prejudice societal movement. But everyone who does not die young becomes old and age stereotypes become self-stereotypes. As I grew up into my adult years, I joined movements toward racism and sexism. But I never thought much about aging prejudice
Over the past few years, as I have moved more deeply into old age, and begun fighting ageism. When I think about dying I have been saying to others, “ I hope I’ve got my mother’s genes.” She is still alive at age 96 whereas my father died in his mid seventies; just a few miles down the road from my current age of 71.
But if the findings of the current research are accurate, I have a whole set of new challenges that I must address if I am to accomplish my longevity goals. During their introduction the authors site a previous research article with states, “…as much as 75% of longevity may be due to nongenetic attributes, including psychological and behavioral factors. To me one of the keys is to stay active physically and psychologically.
The authors’ goals state; “The following study examines for the first time whether positive self-perceptions about one’s aging influence survival, controlling for functional health and other relevant factors.” Their project in includes the use of five items of the Attitudes Toward Own Aging subscale. I will post these items at the bottom of the blog and you can ask yourself what your answers are.
But in the meantime we can look at Becca Levy et al findings that the median survival of those with more positive self perceptions of aging, measured 23 years earlier, was 7.6 years longer than those with more negative self-stereotypes.
The impacts of survival, listed from greatest to least are “…age self-perceptions of aging, gender, loneliness, functional health and socioeconomic status”. Self-perceptions of aging were found to be stronger predictors than all the others combined.
Here are the items used in the Attitudes toward Aging Subscale:
1. Things keep getting better as I get older. Yes No
2. I have as much pep as I did last year. Yes No
3. As you get older, you are more useful. Yes No
4. I am as happy now as I was when I was younger. Yes No
5. As I get older things are better than I thought they would be. Yes No