Dying of Old Age Doesn't Feel So Great

There are a surprisingly large number of studies on personality traits and psychological states as they relate to health status in aging. I can't help but feel that all those funds should perhaps have gone towards generating more practical outcomes in the sciences, but it is what it is. The association that consistently emerges from these studies is that positive traits and emotional states correlate with greater survival, health, and longevity. Optimism, conscientiousness, satisfaction, and so forth, all show up more often in healthier old people. I'm sure you can all theorize as to exactly why this is the case: on the one hand people predisposed to these traits will probably take better care of themselves over the long term, but - far more importantly - dying of old age, being sick and frail and in pain, just isn't a good place to find yourself. The worse your health, the worse you feel.

People spend a lifetime striving to forget what lies ahead, thinking it inevitable. That was a good strategy when aging was in fact inevitable, but now, in an age in which we could be developing therapies to defeat degenerative aging, most of the public still keep their heads in the sand, unwilling to even think about the topic, let alone provide the support and funding needed for rapid progress in medicine. The habits of the past are sabotaging prospects for the future.

High morale is defined as future-oriented optimism. Previous research suggests that a high morale independently predicts increased survival among old people, though very old people have not been specifically studied. Here we investigate whether high morale is associated with increased survival among very old people.

The Umeå 85+/GErontological Regional DAtabase-study (GERDA) recruited participants aged 85 years and older in northern Sweden and western Finland during 2000-02 and 2005-07, of whom 646 were included in this study. Demographic, functional- and health-related data were collected in this population-based study through structured interviews and assessments carried out during home visits and from reviews of medical records. The 17-item Philadelphia Geriatric Center Morale Scale (PGCMS) was used to assess morale.

The 5-year survival rate was 31.9% for participants with low morale, 39.4% for moderate and 55.6% for those with high morale. The relative risk (RR) of mortality was higher among participants with low morale (RR = 1.86) and moderate morale (RR = 1.59) compared with participants with high morale. Similar results were found after adjustment for age and gender. In a model adjusted for several demographic, health- and function-related confounders, including age and gender, mortality was higher among participants with low morale (RR = 1.36) than those with high morale. There was a similar but non-significant pattern towards increased mortality in participants with moderate morale (RR = 1.21). We conclude that high morale is independently associated with increased survival among very old people.

Link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afv021


In fairness, they did 5-year followup and tried to control for health-related factors. I still suspect residual correlation to the health status of the participants at the outset due to attempts to quantify health lacking sufficient granularity. Age-related health issues can be diffuse and difficult to quantify or categorize.

Posted by: José at March 18th, 2015 10:06 AM

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