Posted on May 02, 2016, 6 a.m.
Seniors who have an optimistic outlook on life have been found to live longer than their more pessimistic peers.
New research has shown that “future-oriented optimism” is associated with increased longevity in older seniors. Dr. John Niklasson, a consulting geriatrician at Umeå University in Sweden, and colleagues followed 646 people with an average age of 89, who lived in Northern Sweden and Western Finland. 30% of participants lived in nursing homes. Participants answered 17 questions by phone or in person about their levels of agitation, loneliness and dissatisfaction with aging, in 2000 to 2002, and then again in 2005 to 2007. Using the participants’ answers the researchers classified them as being of high morale, moderate morale, or low morale. High morale was defined as “future-oriented optimism regarding the problems and opportunities associated with living and ageing”. Results showed that participants with high morale tended to be slightly younger than those who were more pessimistic. They also used fewer medications, were more functional, had fewer diseases, and had better vision than their pessimistic peers. Furthermore, they were also less likely to live in an institution or alone, or to be socially isolated or malnourished than those with low or moderate morale. At the 5-year follow-up, 56% of the high morale group was still alive, compared to 32% of the low morale group and 39% of the moderate morale group. Those with higher morale were more likely to survive even after researchers accounted for age, gender, impaired vision and hearing, daily functioning and other health factors. “If low and moderate levels of morale could be improved by appropriate intervention, it would not only improve wellbeing but it might also increase survival,” concluded Dr Niklasson.
Niklasson J, Hörnsten C, Conradsson M, Nyqvist F, Olofsson B, Lövheim H, Gustafson Y. High morale is associated with increased survival in the very old. Age Ageing. 2015 Mar 15. [Epub ahead of print]