The study shows close links between age and health

According to a new study, nearly all seniors have experienced some form of aging in their daily lives, whether it’s seeing aged messages and pictures on television or on the internet, meeting people who imply they are less capable just because they are more. large. or believe the stereotypes about aging.

According to new results published by a team from the University of Oklahoma, Norman and the University of Michigan, older adults with more health problems, however, appear to be more likely to have experienced this kind of “everyday age”. The data, from a survey of more than 2,000 people between the ages of 50 and 80, comes from the National Healthy Aging Survey.

The higher a person’s score on a daily age experience scale, the more likely they are to be in poor physical or mental health, have more chronic health conditions, or show signs of depression.

Although the study, published in Open JAMA networkcannot show cause and effect, the authors note that the links between age and health need to be explored further and considered when designing programs to encourage good health and well-being among the elderly.

These findings raise the question of whether aging-related health problems reflect the negative influences of age and present the possibility that anti-aging efforts may be a strategy to promote the health and well-being of the elderly. “

Julie Ober Allen, Ph.D., MPH, first author, Department of Health and Exercise Science, University of Oklahoma, Norman

Allen worked on the survey during his time as a postdoctoral fellow at the Population Studies Center at UM’s Institute for Social Research.

The team previously published preliminary findings in a report by the NPHA, which is based at the UM Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation and supported by AARP and Michigan Medicine, UM’s academic medical center.

But the new analysis goes further and uses the team’s daily age scale. This scale, validated and published last year, calculates a score based on an individual’s answers to 10 questions about their experiences and beliefs about aging.

Overall, 93% of the elderly surveyed said they regularly experienced at least one of the 10 forms of ageism. The most common, experienced by nearly 80%, agreed with the statement that “having health problems is part of aging”, even though 83% of people surveyed described their health as good. or very good. This type of “internalized” ageism also included agreeing with the claims that feeling lonely or depressed, sad or worried are part of aging.

Meanwhile, 65% of seniors said they regularly see, hear or read jokes about seniors or messages stating that seniors are not attractive or undesirable.

Another class of age experiences – which researchers refer to as interpersonal ageism – was reported as a regular occurrence by 45% of respondents. These included experiences involving another person, in which the older person felt they were assumed to have trouble using technology, seeing, hearing, understanding, remembering or doing something independently, or that they were not doing anything valuable.

The researchers calculated the Everyday Ageism scores for each of the more than 2,000 respondents, based on their answers to all of the survey questions.

The overall average score was just over 10. As a group, people between the ages of 65 and 80 scored above 11, indicating more experiences between the ages of 50 and 64.

People who had lower levels of income or education and those who lived in rural areas also had higher average age scores than others. Seniors who reported spending four or more hours a day watching television, browsing the Internet, or reading magazines scored higher than those with less exposure to such media.

The researchers then looked at each person’s individual score in light of what they had said about their health, including self-rated physical and mental health, the number of chronic health conditions, and reporting symptoms of depression.

They found a close link between the high scores and all four health-related measures. That is, those who reported higher daily age scores were more likely to have reported that their overall physical health or general mental health was fair or poor, more chronic health conditions, and symptoms of depression.

Much of this connection had to do with internalized measures of age, questions that measured how strongly a person agreed with claims about health problems, loneliness, and sadness that were part of aging. But experiences with interpersonal forms of ageism were also linked to health-related measures, as were some aspects of age messages.

The relationship between the experiences of ageism in the daily lives of older adults and health, is of particular interest to survey director and senior author Preeti Malani, MD, a professor at Michigan Medicine with a background in aged care.

“The fact that our respondents who said they experienced most age forms were also more likely to say that their physical or mental health was fair or poor, or that they had a chronic condition such as diabetes or heart disease. , it’s something that needs more exams, “he says.


Michigan Medicine – University of Michigan

Journal reference:

Allen, JO, et al. (2022) Experiences of daily age and health of the elderly in the United States. Open JAMA network.

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