New study shows successful aging a question of 'mind over matter'

A new study released at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology's (ACNP) Annual Meeting suggests that the seniors' perceptions of the aging process depend not on disease or physical disability, but rather on attitude and coping style. This research, conducted at and funded by the Sam and Rose Stein Institute for Research on Aging at the University of California-San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine, is unusual in employing subjective reports as a measure of successful aging.

"The medical community has not reached consensus on what constitutes successful aging," commented lead researcher Dilip Jeste, MD, Estelle and Edgar Levi Chair in Aging and Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences at UCSD. "The commonly used criteria suggest that a person is aging well if they have a low level of disease and disability. However, this study shows that self-perception about aging can be more important than the traditional success markers."

This study examined more than 500 older Americans, age 60 to 98, who live independently within the community (i.e., do not live in a nursing home or assisted care facility). Participants were asked to complete a questionnaire including medical, psychological and demographic information. The sample was representative of national averages with regard to incidence of medical conditions (e.g., heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc.). Similarly, 20 to 25 percent of the respondents had been diagnosed with and/or received treatment for a mental health problem.

Despite the prevalence of physical illness and disabilities in the group, when study participants were asked to rate their own degree of successful aging on a ten-point scale (with 10 being "most successful"), their average rating was 8.4. Most of the respondents who gave themselves high ratings would not meet the criteria for successful aging as quantified by more traditional measures that include absence of disease and freedom from disabil

Contact: Jessica Rowlands

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