Daily Health Headlines

Senior Years May Truly Be Golden for Happiness

👤by Amy Norton 0 comments 🕔Thursday, August 25th, 2016

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 24, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- In a culture that values youth, aging can seem like a dismal prospect. But a new study suggests that older adults are generally less stressed and happier with their lives than younger people are.

The study, which included adults aged 21 to 99, found that on average, mental well-being steadily improved as people grew older. And that was despite the fact that older adults had more physical health issues and problems with memory and thinking, versus younger people.

The reasons are not completely clear. But researchers pointed to some likely explanations -- including the perspective and "wisdom" that comes from life experience.

Teenagers and younger adults can be upset by not getting enough "likes" on their Facebook post, noted Dr. Dilip Jeste, the senior researcher on the study.

"When you're young, everything is so important. And getting approval from others is critical," said Jeste, director of the Center for Healthy Aging at the University of California, San Diego.

As people grow older, they typically gain a better sense of what really matters to them and they're less likely to sweat the small things, he said.

That's probably part of what's going on, agreed James Maddux, a senior scholar at the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being at George Mason University, in Fairfax, Va.

"Research shows that people get better at emotional regulation over time," said Maddux, who was not involved in the new study. "Life experience gives you perspective. You know the downs don't last, and the ups don't last."

The findings, published Aug. 24 in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, are based on surveys of more than 1,500 San Diego-area adults.

In general, physical health conditions and memory issues were more common among older adults. But people in their 20s and 30s reported the highest levels of stress, depression and anxiety. Overall, mental health steadily improved with age, the researchers found.

Since the study didn't follow the same people over time, the findings don't show that stressed-out young adults eventually become happier, Jeste explained. There could also be some generational differences at work, for example.

But both he and Maddux doubted that those differences would fully explain why seniors were more content.

"We can't say for sure that you'll be happier at 80 than at 20," Jeste said. "But we think it's likely."

To Maddux, the "most reasonable" explanation for the findings is that, over time, most people develop a certain amount of "wisdom" that helps them deal with the bad times.

"Life becomes less of a rollercoaster," he said.

And he wasn't surprised that seniors were typically happier despite having more health problems.

According to Maddux, research shows that the "things that happen to us" -- which includes aging and disease -- make only a small difference in our capacity for happiness.

Genes play a bigger role. Put simply, Maddux said, some people's brains are "hard-wired" for happiness, while other people's brains are not. But there are also factors you can change -- including the attitudes you cultivate.

Younger people, Maddux said, can try to develop the skills to manage their emotions, rather than "waiting for life experience to do it."

That, he said, could mean anything from taking a class at a local college or community center, to practicing meditation, to using online self-help resources.

Jeste had another suggestion: Spend some time with your elders.

"That benefits both younger and older generations," he said. Even though seniors in this study were typically happier than younger people, that doesn't mean old age is carefree. Many older adults do suffer from loneliness and a feeling that they've lost their usefulness, Jeste pointed out.

As for younger adults, he said, a certain amount of stress and anxiety is to be expected, since they are building careers and families, and often feeling "peer pressure."

But Jeste also questioned whether today's young adults might feel stressors that past generations did not -- partly because of elevated expectations. Years ago, young people typically expected to get a job -- probably in their hometown -- have a family and be comfortable.

"Now there are many more opportunities," Jeste said. "But with opportunities come more expectations."

The bottom line, he said, is that youth is not bliss, and old age is not something to be feared.

Maddux agreed. "People still look at aging as something to dread," he said. "But as you age, you acquire wisdom. With that, life generally becomes easier and more pleasant."

Article Credits / Source

Amy Norton / HealthDay

Amy Norton wrote this story for HealthDay. HealthDay provides up to the minute breaking health news. Click here to view this full article from HealthDay.

SOURCES: Dilip Jeste, M.D., director, Center for Healthy Aging, professor, psychiatry, University of California, San Diego; James Maddux, Ph.D., senior scholar, Center for the Advancement of Well-Being, George Mason University, Fairfax, Va.; August 2016, Journal of Clinical Psychiatry

View More Articles From Amy Norton 🌎View Article Website

Sponsored Product

Lunar Sleep for $1.95

Lunar Sleep for $1.95

People who have trouble sleeping typically have low levels of melatonin, so melatonin supplements seem like a logical fix for insomnia. There is a high demand for sleep aids, especially in the U.S. The National Health Interview Survey done in 2002, and again in 2007, found 1.6 million US adults were using complementary and alternative sleep aids for insomnia. Lunar Sleep was a top choice. Use Promo Code: Sleep2014 and only pay $1.95 S&H.

Get Lunar Sleep for $1.95

More Senior Health Articles

Palliative Care Raises Quality of Life, But Doesn't Extend It

Palliative Care Raises Quality of Life, But Doesn't Extend It0

TUESDAY, Nov. 22, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Palliative care can ease the burden that a serious illness places on both a patient and loved ones, but there's no evidence that it can extend the life of a sick person, a review of the available evidence has ...

1 in 4 Seniors Doesn't Discuss End-of-Life Care

1 in 4 Seniors Doesn't Discuss End-of-Life Care0

MONDAY, Oct. 31, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- More than one-quarter of American seniors have never discussed end-of-life care, a new study finds. "Despite decades of work to improve advance care planning, over a quarter of older adults have still ...

Clots May Be the Cause of Fainting in Some Elderly

Clots May Be the Cause of Fainting in Some Elderly0

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 19, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- When elderly adults suffer a fainting spell, a blood clot in the lungs may be the culprit more often than doctors have realized, a new study suggests. Italian researchers found that among 560 ...

Better Way to Treat Seniors' Ankle Fractures?

Better Way to Treat Seniors' Ankle Fractures?0

TUESDAY, Oct. 18, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- A new type of plaster cast might help older adults avoid surgery for unstable ankle fractures, researchers say. "Older adults -- those over 60 -- are suffering an increasing number of ankle fractures ...

Seniors With Hip Fractures Fare Better in Large Teaching Hospitals: Study

Seniors With Hip Fractures Fare Better in Large Teaching Hospitals: Study0

MONDAY, Oct. 17, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Seniors with hip fractures may be more likely to die if they're treated in smaller community hospitals than in large teaching hospitals, a new Canadian study suggests. About 10 percent of hip fracture ...

View More Senior Health Articles

0 Comments

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Our Mailing List

Subscribe to our mailing list to get the latest health news as it breaks!

Your information will not be shared with anyone!