While focusing on aging, a study in England examined individuals aged 50 years and older for a decade. This study also pinpointed some key concerns regarding the aging population in terms of happiness and longevity, as well as some of the core contributing factors.
The project followed over 10,000 people in England, focusing on various factors and their effects on the aging process. More specifically, social, economic, health, and psychological concerns within an aging population. The key goal of this study was to find out whether or not one’s wellbeing earlier in life affects the future outcome of their health and potentially predicts early death.
Some of the Key Findings Regarding the Aging Process and Longevity
The study began in 2002 and every two years, participants were re-examined. Those who were taking part in this extensive study had previously taken part in the Health Survey for England. The advantage of this was that existing data was combined with new data, creating a clearer picture regarding public health and quality of life.
There’s so much research regarding depression and stress and the ways in which they hinder our health, yet there was very little information regarding the opposite effect. The University College of London decided to examine the opposite concept, does living a happy and fulfilling life contribute to positive well-being?
There have been several waves of data collected, with the sixth wave being the most recent. In 2012, the research supported the fact that those who live happier lives tend to live longer. Within a follow-up, researchers analyzed 3,199 people aged 60 and older.
Participants were split into three groups, as approximately 21 percent were categorized as having a positive mental outlook, 56 percent had a medium outlook and 23 percent were categorized as having a low positive outlook. Some of the key findings were as follows:
- Those who were more positive and enjoyed life tended to experience higher levels of physical functioning. In fact, those who exhibited a lower sense of happiness were more than three times as likely to struggle with daily tasks in terms of performance, such as bathing or getting dressing.
- By the end of the study, approximately 4 percent of those who had a positive outlook experienced two or more functional impairments, in comparison to 17 percent of those who had a lower mental outlook on life.
- Even after controlling for variables, such as issues with mobility or chronic illness, those who had a lower satisfaction level in terms of their life, were still 83 percent more likely to develop two or more daily age-related issues in comparison to their positive counterparts.
- When looking at factors that hinder satisfaction, the isolation of seniors played a key role, With few hobbies and fewer social interactions, it was found that one in six individuals over the age of 50 were socially isolated. Wealth also played a role, as those who were wealthier were much more socially active.
Importance of Social Ties within the Aging Population
Although the main goal of this project was to focus on mental outlook and longevity, some of the other findings should not be ignored. Considering social interaction influences one’s mental outlook and level of satisfaction, this is perhaps an area that we need to focus on.
Instead of waiting until grandma is 84 and falls ill, why not intervene sooner? Based on the correlation found between happiness and physical health, it’s important to look at factors which would make life more enjoyable for the elderly population.
Based on an investigation conducted by the Children’s, Women’s and Seniors’ Health Branch in British Columbia, they have recognized that social isolation is an emerging issue. With more individuals wishing to live at home, fewer children per family, and our highly mobile society, social isolation needs to be better understood so that more effective strategies are created.
The literature has supported these findings time and time again, as social isolation has been reported as a key predictor regarding compromised mental health, higher rates of chronic illness, and poor health in general. There are plenty of ways in which you can intervene, potentially improving the well-being of elderly family members or individuals within your community.
- Make transportation available so that the elderly individual you’re concerned about can get to where they’d like to go. A feeling of independence and choices regarding travel can stimulate positive social health. Communities should be offering free fares for seniors, especially those who fall into the low-income category.
- Encouraging a sense of purpose is also recommended, as you support their interests and past hobbies. Why not get them involved within their local senior community center? Not only can they access activities and games that stimulate the mind, but they will increase their level of social interaction. For those of faith, bring them to church, allowing them to mingle with others in the community.
- If they’re able to care for a small dog or cat, this can be a great way to boost positive mental health and reduce symptoms of depression. Even a plant is a great gift, encouraging them to garden. Caring for plants can increase physical activity and fulfill our need to nurture.
Based on the most recent findings and years of compiled research, it’s clear that our levels of satisfaction and enjoyment directly influence our mental and physical health. It’s important to take charge, supporting the elderly individuals within your family and community. For more information or to submit a request, please contact the National Seniors Council.
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