Saturday 17 December 2016

Optimism Can Cut Your Death Risks


More than 9,000 Britons aged 50 and older took part in research to examine the importance of long-term wellbeing.

Participants were assessed three times between 2002 and 2006 using four measures of enjoyment of life, and subsequent death rates were analysed up to 2013.

People who reported high life enjoyment at all three assessments were 24 per cent less likely to die during the follow-up period than those who reported no enjoyment.

Those reported enjoying life at two assessments had a 17 per cent reduced risk of death. Previous studies have shown subjective wellbeing – feelings of enjoyment and satisfaction with life – is associated with greater longevity, but measured it only on a single occasion, and the importance of sustained wellbeing was not known.

The English Longitudinal Study of Ageing interviewed 9,365 over-50s, with an average age of 63, three times.

Those who answered “never or rarely” to four questions about enjoyment were classed as having no enjoyment. Those responding “sometimes or often” were categorised as having high enjoyment. A total of 24 per cent reported no high levels of enjoyment of life on any occasion.

Twenty per cent had one, 22 per cent had two and 34 per cent had three reports of high enjoyment. Progressively higher mortality was found among people with fewer reports of high enjoyment in the follow-up period.

David Sinclair, director at the International Longevity Centre – UK, said: “A good old age isn’t just about having enough money or a roof above your head. We’re all living longer lives than our parents and grandparents yet too many older people find they don’t have the opportunity to have fun like they did when they were younger.

“We’ve got research coming out next week which shows that over 1.2 million over-75s want to go to the cinema more often and 1.8 million want to eat out more often. It’s about changing the mind-set of legislators, doctors, councils and carers which will, in turn, make it easier for older people to continue to play a full part in our society and lead to a boost in wellbeing and positivity.”

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, added: “It’s good news that maintaining a positive outlook can help us live longer, but it’s sad that this report shows nearly a quarter of older people feel they have no enjoyment in their day-to-day life.

“We know that a chronic lack of social care support is making life a misery for millions of older people and more than 1.2 million older people are lonely, often as the result of bereavement.

“These issues have a major impact... and, until they are addressed, being positive will continue to be a challenge for many in later life.”

A range of factors that could influence the findings such as wealth, education and health were taken into account.

There were more reports of high enjoyment of life in women, married or cohabiting participants and the well educated, wealthier, younger and the employed.

Andrew Steptoe, one of the authors of the study, published in the Christmas issue of The British Medical Journal, said: “This is an observational study, so causal conclusions cannot be drawn, nonetheless the results add a new dimension to understanding the significance of subjective wellbeing for physical health outcomes by documenting an association with sustained wellbeing.”



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