“Many of you likely know someone firsthand who has seemingly defied the hands of time, looking, thinking and acting the age of someone decades younger. Your lifestyle — healthy diet, exercise, avoidance of pollutants, etc. — certainly plays a role in how well you fare as you get older, but so too does your attitude.” — Dr. Mercola, Mercola.com.
Your attitude towards something can directly affect the outcome. This is known as the self-fulfilling prophecy, where you unknowingly cause an event or outcome to come true simply by expecting or believing that it will happen. If you think you are old, chances are you will age faster. Several studies demonstrate this self-fulfilling prophecy, and they share key insights into how your attitude affects both your physical and emotional health and ultimately how quickly you age.
Study 1: Determining How Attitudes Towards Aging Effect Health
One study by researchers at the University of Exeter asked 29 people between the ages of 66 and 98 about their experiences with aging to determine what impact their attitudes and beliefs had on aging.
Participants had varying degrees of physical health. Some lived in care homes whilst others lived alone. The majority of participants indicated that they were in good shape, even though there were others in better condition.
Two people identified themselves as old and frail, even though they were in better physical shape compared to other participants. Their negative perceptions of their age led to a marked decline in health through participants removing themselves from social activities and exercise.
Study 2: Longevity Increased by Positive Self-perceptions of Aging
In another study, 660 people participated in a community-based survey known as the Ohio Longitudinal Study of Aging and Retirement. Again, the findings were telling. Positive perceptions of aging during middle-age led to increased longevity of 7.5 years.
Another study reinforced the power of positive perceptions towards age. When positive age stereotypes were strengthened, it led to improvements in physical function that rivaled those achieved by six months of exercise.
Study 3: Association Between Positive Age Stereotypes and Recovery From Disability in Older Persons
People with positive perceptions of aging were 44% more likely to recover from severe disabilities.
For this study, the sample consisted of 598 participants. They were recruited from a health plan in greater New Haven and interviewed monthly for 129 months. Home-based assessments were completed every 18 months, from March 1999 through to December 2008.
According to the study:
“Positive age stereotypes may promote recovery from disability through several pathways: limiting cardiovascular response to stress, improving physical balance, enhancing self-efficacy, and increasing engagement in healthy behaviours.”
Study 4: Effect of positive well-being on incidence of symptomatic coronary artery disease
Finally, a study of nearly 1500 people with a risk of early onset coronary artery disease found that those with a positive outlook on life, who were relaxed and cheerful, had one-third reduction in coronary events such as heart attacks.
Even more revealing was those with the highest risk of coronary artery disease enjoyed a 50% reduction. And this was true even if other risk factors such as smoking and diabetes were factored in.
Choose to be happy. Choose to be positive. Choose to seek out new experiences
The studies reveal the importance of how your view of your age can affect your health. It is a clear self-fulfilling prophecy that cannot be ignored.
While your lifestyle (healthy eating, exercise, etc.) has a very tangible and important influence on your health, and should be used to complement your attitude and views, the importance of views toward age cannot be overstated. There is a clear and significant connection between the perception of age and a person’s health (both positive and negative).
The message then is simple. Start to make a conscious decision to not act your age. Choose to be happy. Choose to be positive. Choose to seek out new experiences. Failing to do so and falling into the trap of believing you are old can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, with your mind and body following suit. What follows then, surely, is a rapid cycle of decline in your health.
Featured photo credit: Disney via disney.wikia.com