March 13, 2012

Study: Life, Wellbeing Does Get Better With Age

When you think of the elderly you may get a vision of a grumpy old man, but a new study from the University of Warwick in the U.K. finds that older people are typically happier. The study studied the lifestyle and health patterns in more than 10,000 people in both the U.S. and U.K., looking at eight factors including perception of general health, pain, social functioning and mental health.

"The researchers found that people reported better mental quality of life as they age, despite a decrease in physical quality of life," the report states.

The study cites that weight and physical activity had little effect on happiness. The researchers said people with a BMI of more than 30 showed similar mental quality of life levels to those considered a healthy weight. Further, women in the U.S. who took part in only low levels of exercise had the same level of mental wellbeing as other women in the study.

Study leader Dr. Saverio Stranges from Warwick Medical School at the University of Warwick, along with colleague Dr. Kandala Ngianga-Bakwin, said "It's obvious that people's physical quality of life deteriorates as they age, but what is interesting is that their mental well-being doesn't also deteriorate - in fact it increases."

Researchers have theories for the physical wellbeing of the elderly. "We suggest that this could be due to better coping abilities, an interpretation supported by previous research showing older people tend to have internal mechanisms to deal better with hardship or negative circumstances than those who are younger," researchers said. "It could also be due to a lowering of expectations from life, with older people less likely to put pressure on themselves in the personal and professional spheres."

A previous study conducted by Professor Andrew Oswald of the University of Warwick supports the new findings. The previous study suggested that "happiness levels follow a U-shape curve with their lowest point in the mid-40s after which they rise as people move into older age."


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