OregonAccording to the latest study, stress and aging can have a negative effect on your physical health. However, your self-perception of aging can be good for your health if you reduce stress.
This research has been published in the ‘Journals of Gerontology’. Using daily survey data from older adults over a 100-day period, OSU researchers found that those who reported more positive self-perceptions of aging were more protected from the physical effects of stress than those who did not. were those who felt more negative about their aging.
“Better self-perception as you age is good for your health, regardless of how stressed you are, or how stressed you feel,” said Dakota Witzel, lead author on the paper and doctoral candidate in the OSU College of Public Health. and anthropology.
Research on stress has long found that daily and chronic stress is associated with physical health symptoms, including high blood pressure, heart disease and loss of cognitive function. These effects are associated not only with objective stress, but also with perceived stress: people’s subjective assessment of an experience as stressful.
Using responses from 105 Oregon adults aged 52 to 88 who took part in a daily online survey through OSU’s Personal Understanding of Life and Social Experience (PULSE) study in 2010, researchers surveyed participants over a period of 100 days. They measured their perceived stress and physical health, along with an initial set of questions to measure their self-perceptions about aging.
Questions asked participants “Today, I felt that the difficulties were so overwhelming that I could not overcome them,” and “As you get older, you become less useful.”
On average, higher perceived stress was related to worse self-perceptions of aging and worse physical health symptoms, while more positive self-perceptions of aging were related to fewer health symptoms.
On days when individuals with more negative self-perceptions of aging reported more stress than usual, they reported nearly three times more physical health symptoms than individuals with more positive self-perceptions of aging. In other words, positive self-perceptions of aging had a protective effect against the physical health effects of stress.
This means that thought patterns or interactions that reinforce or exaggerate various stereotypes of aging physically affect people’s lives, Witzel said.
“These things are really important to our health and well-being, not only in the long term, but in our daily lives,” she said.
“The chances of reporting these physical health symptoms drop significantly on average when you have a better self-perception of aging,” she said.
Witzel said aging’s self-perception is one area where simple interventions can make a difference. One easy step is to accept that having a positive impact on the aging process will have a real impact on your physical health.
This doesn’t mean that adults should dismiss real health concerns or plaster on a fake smile, but they will see benefits if they consciously work to be more positive about aging.
“It’s a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy,” Witzel said.
Everyone should form positive images of themselves as older adults in the future, said study co-author and professor Karen Hooker in the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences. This will help balance the “fearful self” that often perpetuates negative stereotypes of aging with the more positive “hope-for-like” potential self, she said.
“Our self-perception of aging can be a modifiable resilience factor shaping our physical and mental health in later life,” she said.
The researchers noted that the study was limited in its sample population; Pulse survey respondents were predominantly white, female and well educated.
Public health doctoral student Shelby Turner was also a co-author of the study. The PULSE project from which the survey data was generated was funded by OSU’s Center for Healthy Aging Research.
First published:January 14, 2022, 10:43 PM