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Health & Medicine for Senior Citizens

A Positive Attitude is Good for the Health of Senior Citizens, Research Proves

One way is it reduces stress, which is a source of many ailments for seniors

Jan. 20, 2011 – Feeling good and having a positive attitude has often been associated with good health. A new review of existing research seems to prove this is true for senior citizens – positive emotions do influence healthy outcomes for older people.

 “We all age. It is how we age, however, that determines the quality of our lives,” said Anthony Ong of Cornell University, author of the review article in Current Directions in Psychological Science. The data he reviews suggest that positive emotions may be a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and illness. 

 

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There are several pathways through which a positive attitude can protect against poor health later in life. For example, happier people might take a proactive approach to aging by regularly exercising and budgeting time for a good night’s sleep.

On the other hand, these people may avoid unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking and risky sex. The benefits of these healthy lifestyle choices may become more important in older adults, as their bodies become more susceptible to disease. 

Optimism reduces stress that reduces disease

An optimistic outlook has also been shown to combat stress - a known risk factor for a lot of disease. Studies have found that people with stronger positive emotions have lower levels of chemicals associated with inflammation related to stress. Also, by adopting a positive attitude people may even be able to undo some of the physical damage caused by stress. 

Ong, a developmental psychologist, became interested in the study of positive emotion during graduate school when he learned about what researchers call the paradox of aging: Despite the notable loss of physical function throughout the body, a person’s emotional capacity seemed to stay consistent with age.

Ong speculates that if positive emotions are indeed good for our health then, “one direct, measureable consequence of this should be the extended years of quality living.”

The review, "Pathways Linking Positive Emotion and Health in Later Life," is published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. It publishes concise reviews on the latest advances in theory and research spanning all of scientific psychology and its applications.

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