A recent study has shown that negative age stereotypes and the way that they make you feel about getting older can play a detrimental role in your mental health. The research used data regarding older military veterans and found that those who view getting older in a positive light to have a much lower risk of suicidal thoughts and anxiety. This report concluded that if the media and more personal conversations allowed for a greater sense of positivity to be associated with aging then it could improve mental health for everybody.
How The Data Added Up
The research was completed by a team lead by Becca T. Levy, a professor from the Yale School of Public Health, which is located in New Haven, Connecticut. Levy is also the director of the university’s Social and Behavioral Sciences Division. They published their work in the Journal of Social Science and Medicine, with the findings that ex-military personnel, especially women, are at a higher risk of having mental disorders than people of the same age who haven’t served. Older ex-military personnel are also at a greater risk than those who are younger than them, and unfortunately, it is not yet known how changes could be made to protect older veterans from developing a disorder. Catharine Paddock, PHD of Medical News Today writes: “For their study they analyzed data on over 2,000 American ex-military personnel aged 55 and over from the National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study, a nationally representative survey of the 9 million or so older veterans. The survey collected a range of data, including measures of mental health, attitudes, and social activity.”
What they found was that those who participated with a positive outlook on aging, were mainly trauma free, with only 2% having any kind of stress disorder. Those with a negative outlook on getting older, on the other hand, showed a 19% chance of mental disorders. Findings showed that there was a difference of 5% to 30% for those contemplating suicide and of 4% to 35% for those with anxiety problems.
How The Assessment Was Completed
Of the 598 participants who were involved in the research, the average age was 79 with no disabilities as the study began. They were interviewed for as many as 129 months through a series of home based tests and assessments which were completed every 18 months for a series of 10 years.
Shelley Emling of The Huffington Post says: “Researchers established age stereotypes by asking participants for five terms or phrases they associated with older people and then graphing those descriptions on a five-point scale with 1 being most negative (such as decrepit) and 5 being most positive (spry).”
Previous studies had been completed in the past with similar information used, and findings suggested that positivity in regards to age stereotypes always made a beneficial difference in the upkeep of mental health. On the other hand, the opposite was true for negative responses.
Staying Mentally Strong
This research determined that the link was also strong in regards to negative age stereotypes and what these could do to a patient’s psyche. The statistics should work very similarly for non-veterans as well, and is probably true of all human beings as they age. The key to living a longer healthier life seems to be building up a resistance to the negative age stereotypes, to ease any anxiety that would normally occur about getting older. By building a more positive image of aging, there’s a great possibility than mental health disorders in the elderly could decrease at a high level.
Support For This Concept
The funds for the study were gained through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, as well as the National Institute of Mental Health, and the National Institute of Aging. The thought that most people seem to have on the project are that much of the subconscious thoughts that people have about aging stem back to their youth, and that any sort of negativity associated with it can increase the likelihood of illness both mental and physical. This means that older adults who think about age as a way to gain more knowledge, spirituality, and be at one with themselves, are far more likely to recover from any kind of disability. The New York Times announces: “The latest report, in The Journal of the American Medical Association, suggests that seniors with this positive bias are 44 percent more likely to fully recover from a bout of disability.”
Currently, this subject is gaining a lot of notice from medical journals and researchers as they determine whether or not it could be possible to prevent bouts of mental health issues by simply instilling a higher sense of self-worth into the aging population. Having something worth continuing to live and love and laugh for is incentive enough for most to live to their fullest potential, they just need to have the drive to do so.
Obviously positive association is only one step that can be taken in preventing mental health disorders. Your mental health, aging or otherwise, is always associated with your physical health; and how you take care of your body can greatly impact how well your brain can process the information that it takes in, and for how long it stays sharp and focused. You can also speak to your doctor about alternative ways to stay mentally aware, and to possibly prevent mental health disorders in the future.