Scientists are a cautious bunch, but the latest study, out yesterday from researchers from at Trinity College, Dublin, is unequivocal: “Attitudes to aging can have a direct effect on health.” (Not quite “Ageism makes you sick,” but close.) Research continues to illuminate the important implications of the mind-body connection for how we age. The Irish study found that olders with negative attitudes towards aging walked more slowly and had “worse cognitive abilities” than those with more positive attitudes, even after researchers accounted for medications, mood, life circumstances, and other health changes over the same two-year period. Attitudes also affected the interaction of different health conditions. Frailty correlates with cognitive impairment, but the brains of frail participants with positive attitudes towards aging worked as well as those of their non-frail peers.
The article concludes that “These latest findings have important implications for media, policymakers, practitioners and society more generally. Societal attitudes towards aging are predominantly negative. Everyone will grow older and if these attitudes persist they will continue to diminish quality of life.” No kidding. More grist for my ongoing argument that an anti-ageism campaign would be an important public health initiative. The World Health Organization thinks so too.