The study shows a close link between age and health

Almost all older people have experienced some form of age in their daily lives, a new study finds – whether they see messages and images of old age on television or on the Internet, meet people who suggest that they are less capable just because they are older. or believers 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 health problems related to aging reflect the adverse effects of aging and provide an opportunity for anti-aging efforts to be a strategy to promote the health and well-being of older people. “

Julie Ober Allen, PhD, MPH, first author, 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 by 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 feelings of 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 – is 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 the survey 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, indicating that people aged 50 to 64 have more experience with age.

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.

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 experience with interpersonal forms of age has 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 experienced 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. disease is something that needs more examinations, “she says.


Michigan Medicine – University of Michigan

Reference in the magazine:

Alan, JO, et al. (2022) The Experience of Everyday Ageism and Adult Health in the United States. JAMA Network Open.

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