Ageism and Health: The study shows close links

Summary: Almost all adults between the ages of 50 and 80 report experiencing ageism in their daily lives, but those with health problems experience “everyday aging” more often.

Source: University of Michigan

Almost all older people have experienced some form of age in their daily lives, a new study has found – whether they see messages and images of old age on television or the Internet, they meet people who hint that they are less capable just because are older, or believe in stereotypes about aging.

However, older people with more health problems appear to be more likely to have experienced this type of “daily ageism,” according to new findings published by a team from the University of Oklahoma, Norman and the University of Michigan. Data from a survey of more than 2,000 people between the ages of 50 and 80 come from the National Healthy Aging Survey.

The higher a person’s score on the scale of daily experience with age, 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 JAMA Network Openunable to show cause and effect, the authors note that the links between age and health need to be further explored and taken into account when developing programs to promote good health and well-being among older people.

“These findings raise the question of whether aging-related health problems reflect the adverse effects of age and provide an opportunity for anti-aging efforts to be a strategy to promote the health and well-being of older people,” said first author Julie Ober Allen, Ph.D., MPH. Department of Health and Exercise, University of Oklahoma, Norman.

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

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

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

Overall, 93% of older people surveyed say they regularly experience at least one of the 10 forms of age. The most common, surveyed by nearly 80%, agreed with the statement that “having health problems is part of aging” – although 83% of respondents describe their own health as good or very good. This type of “internalized” ageism also involves agreeing with claims that feelings of loneliness or depression, sadness, or anxiety are part of aging.

Meanwhile, 65% of older people say they regularly see, hear or read jokes about older people or reports that older people are unattractive or unwanted.

Another class of age-related experiences – which researchers call interpersonal ageism – was reported as a regular occurrence by 45% of respondents. These include experiences involving another person in which the older person believes they have problems with using technology, seeing, hearing, understanding, remembering, or doing something on their own – or doing nothing of value.

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

The overall average score is just over 10. As a group, people aged 65 to 80 achieved over 11, which shows a greater survival age than those aged 50-64.

People who had lower levels of income or education, and those who lived in rural areas, also had average age estimates that were higher than others. Older people who report spending four hours or more each day watching TV, surfing the Internet, or reading magazines have higher scores than those with less exposure to such media.

The researchers then looked at each person’s individual outcome in the light of what they said about their own health, including self-assessment of physical and mental health, a number of chronic health conditions, and a report of depressive symptoms.

Ageism takes many forms, including internalized stereotypes about what older people experience. Credit: University of Michigan

They found a close link between the higher results and the four health measures. This means that those who report higher scores than the daily age are more likely to report that their overall physical health or overall mental health is fair or poor, more chronic health conditions and symptoms of depression.

Much of this connection is related to internalized measures of age – questions that measure how strongly a person agrees with the claims of health problems, loneliness and sadness that are part of aging. But experiences with interpersonal forms of age have also been linked to health measures, as well as some aspects of age messages.

The connection between the experiences of age in the daily life of the elderly and health is of particular interest to the director of the survey and senior author Priti Malani, MD, professor in Michigan medicine with experience in care for the elderly.

“The fact that respondents in our survey who said they felt the most forms of age are also more likely to say that their physical or mental health is fair or poor, or that they have a chronic condition such as diabetes or “Heart disease is something that needs more examinations,” she said.

Learn more about the National Health Aging Survey at and sign up to receive new reports when they are published.

The data on which the new study is based are available at

Additional authors: Erica Solway, PhD, MSW, MPH; Matthias Kirch, MS; Diane Singer, MPH; Jeffrey T. Kulgren, MD, MS, MPH; Valerie Moses, MS

Financing: The study was funded in part by a grant to the UM Population Research Center, where Allen was a PhD student, from the National Institute on Aging (AG000221). The University of Oklahoma Library Open Access Fund also provided support.

For this news on health and aging research

author: Kara Gavin
Source: University of Michigan
contact: Kara Gavin – University of Michigan
Image: The image is credited to the University of Michigan

Original research: Free access.
“The Experience of Everyday Ageism and the Health of Older Adults in the United States” by Julie Ober Allen et al. JAMA Network Open


The experience of everyday ageism and adult health in the United States


See also

This shows the brain

Major incidents of age have been shown to be associated with poorer health and well-being among the elderly. Less is known about the routine types of age discrimination, prejudices and stereotypes that older people face in their daily lives, known as daily ageism.


To study the prevalence of daily ageism, group differences and differences and associations of daily ageism with indicators of poor physical and mental health.

Design, setup and participants

This cross-sectional study was conducted using data from a study from the National Healthy Aging Survey of December 2019 among a nationally representative household sample of adults in the United States aged 50 to 80 years. The data were analyzed from November 2021 to April 2022.


The experience of everyday ageism was measured using the newly developed multidimensional scale for everyday age.

Main results and measures

Satisfactory or poor physical health, number of chronic health conditions, good or bad mental health and depressive symptoms.


Among 2035 adults aged 50 to 80 years (1047 [54.2%] Women; 192 Black [10.9%]178 Spanish [11.4%]and 1546 White [71.1%]; means [SD] age 62.6 [8.0] years [weighted statistics]), most participants (1915 adults) [93.4%]) report that they regularly experience 1 or more forms of daily aging. Internalized ageism was reported by 1,664 adults (81.2%), adult messages by 1,394 adults (65.2%), and interpersonal ageism by 941 adults (44.9%). The results on the average daily age scale are higher for several socio-demographic groups, including adults aged 65 to 80 compared to those aged 50 to 64 (11.23 [95% CI, 10.80-11.66] against 9.55 [95% CI, 9.26-9.84]) and white (10.43 [95% CI, 10.20-10.67]; P <.001) and Spanish (10.09 [95% CI, 9.31-10.86]; P = .04) adults versus black adults (9.23 [95% CI, 8.42-10.03]).

Higher levels of daily age are associated with an increased risk of all 4 negative physical and mental health outcomes studied in regression analyzes (with odds ratios). [ORs] for an additional rock point up to 1.20 [95% CI, 1.17-1.23] for depressive symptoms and b = 0.039 [95% CI, 0.029-0.048] for chronic health conditions; Pvalues ​​<.001). Internalized ageism was the category associated with the largest increase in the risk of poor outcomes for all health measures (with OR on an additional scale point to 1.62 [95% CI, 1.49-1.76] for depressive symptoms and b= 0.063 [95% CI, 0.034-0.092] for chronic health conditions; Pvalues ​​<.001).

Conclusions and relevance

This study found that daily ageism is prevalent among adults in the United States between the ages of 50 and 80. These findings suggest that simple age messages, interactions and beliefs may be detrimental to health and that multi-level and multi-sectoral efforts may be needed to reduce daily aging and promote positive beliefs, practices and policies related to aging and older people. .

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