[Paleopsych] Live Science: Happiness in Old Age Depends on Attitude

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Happiness in Old Age Depends on Attitude

By Robert Roy Britt
LiveScience Managing Editor
posted: 12 December 2005
01:16 pm ET

Happiness in old age may have more to do with attitude than actual health,
a new study suggests.

Researchers examined 500 Americans age 60 to 98 who live independently and
had dealt with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, mental health conditions
or a range of other problems. The participants rated their own degree of
successful aging on scale of 1-10, with 10 being best.

Despite their ills, the average rating was 8.4.

"What is most interesting about this study is that people who think they
are aging well are not necessarily the (healthiest) individuals," said
lead researcher Dilip Jeste of the University of California at San Diego.

"In fact, optimism and effective coping styles were found to be more
important to successfully aging than traditional measures of health and
wellness," Jeste said. "These findings suggest that physical health is not
the best indicator of successful aging???attitude is."

The finding may prove important for the medical community, which by
traditional measures would have considered only 10 percent of the study
members to be aging successfully.

"The commonly used criteria suggest that a person is aging well if they
have a low level of disease and disability," Jeste said. "However, this
study shows that self-perception about aging can be more important than
the traditional success markers."

Health and happiness may indeed be largely in the mind. A study released
last year found that people who described themselves as highly optimistic
a decade ago had lower rates of death from cardiovascular disease and
lower overall death rates than strong pessimists. Research earlier this
year revealed that the sick and disabled are often as happy as anyone else.

The new study also showed that people who spent time each day socializing,
reading or participating in other hobbies rated their aging satisfaction

"For most people, worries about their future aging involve fear of
physical infirmity, disease or disability," Jeste said. "However, this
study is encouraging because it shows that the best predictors of
successful aging are well within an individual's control."

The results, announced today, were reported at a meeting of the American
College of Neuropsychopharmacology.
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