Embracing The Golden Years: Research Says Seniors Are Feeling Happier
Growing older comes with its ups and downs. But when it comes to mental health, the positive may outweigh the negative, suggests a new study.
A team of researchers interviewed a group of people between the ages of 21 and 100. This included both telephone interviews and in-home surveys.
They found that the oldest individuals had mental health scores significantly better than the youngest. These senior citizens had greater satisfaction with life and lower levels of perceived stress. They also experienced less anxiety and depression.
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This was true, even though the older participants physical health was much poorer than those who were younger.
Participants reported that they felt better about themselves and their lives year upon year, decade after decade, says senior author Dilip Jeste, MD.
Conversely, the research team noted that adults in their 20s and 30s reported high levels of stress, depressive symptoms and anxiety.
This fountain of youth period is associated with far worse levels of psychological well-being than any other period of adulthood, Jeste notes.
The reasons for improved positive mental health in old age are not clear. However, Jeste suggests that as we age, we may become more adept at coping with stress. In effect, we learn not to sweat the small stuff.
Additionally, a number of studies show that older individuals are more skilled at regulating their emotions and making smart decisions. They also experience and retain fewer negative emotions and memories.
While this is all good news for the aging population, it does bring about concerns for younger adults.
Inadequate attention has been paid to mental health issues that continue or get exacerbated post-adolescence. We need to understand mechanisms underlying better mental health in older age in spite of more physical ailments, Jeste concludes.
Graying but Grinning: Despite Physical Ailments, Older Adults Happier. News Release. University of California San Diego Health. Aug 2016.