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Views on Old Age May Become Reality Later
Date:2/27/2009

nswering the initial questions. By comparison, the figure was 13 percent in those who believed positive stereotypes about aging.

Previous research has suggested that people exposed to negative stereotypes have more difficult tolerating stress, Levy said. "I think negative stereotypes have components that are more stress-inducing."

It's also possible that genetics play a role, said S. Jay Olshansky, a professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

"Perhaps younger people with positive views of aging have them, because they are healthier or because they have older relatives who are healthier," Olshansky said. "In either case, the outcome would not be a product of the 'belief,' but rather, the fact that they inherited a genetic potential for a healthier old age that they see and experience in themselves or see in their older relatives."

It's unlikely that simply thinking "happy thoughts" about aging will make people live happily ever after, he said. "Health begets health -- when you see healthy older relatives, you are likely to develop a positive view of aging."

More information

Learn more about aging from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.



SOURCES: Becca Levy, Ph.D., associate professor, epidemiology and psychology, Yale School of Public Health, New Haven, Conn.; S. Jay Olshansky, Ph.D., professor, School of Public Health, University of Illinois at Chicago; March 2009, Psychological Science


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