October 26, 2012
Better Health Via Positive Thinking For Lonely Older Adults
Connie K. Ho for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Elderly adults who turn their frown upside down can boost their health, according to a study from Concordia University. Researchers from the campus in Canada recently found that lonely older adults have more health risks and maintaining a positive attitude is paramount for keeping the body healthy.
The scientists observed 122 senior citizens over a span of six years. In particular, the study showed that lonely older adults have a heightened risk of having health problems later on in life. However, the researchers believe that older adults who have an upbeat outlook can change the negative health issues through positive thinking.
"Our aim was to see whether using self-protective strategies, such as thinking positively and avoiding self-blame in the context of common age-related threats could prevent lonely older adults from exhibiting increases in stress hormones and inflammatory biomarkers," remarked the study´s co-author Carsten Wrosch, a professor in Concordia University´s Department of Psychology, in a prepared statement.
In the study, the participants completed questionnaires and rated statements like “Even if my health is in very difficult condition, I can find something positive in life” or “When I find it impossible to overcame a health problem, I try not to blame myself.” The surveys allowed the researchers to measure self-protective strategies and the team tracked the loneliness of individuals by asking participants how lonely or isolated they felt during different parts of the day.
Apart from the survey, the researchers utilized saliva and blood samples to determine the amount of cortisol and C-reactive protein (CRP) that the participants had. They felt that the two biological markers were able to display any effects the body had; while cortisol showed stress-related change in the body, higher levels of CRP showed higher risk for inflammatory illnesses like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and hypertension.
Based on the findings, the team of investigators concluded that positive thinking could help lonely adults defend against an uptick in cortisol secretion. Tests completed four years after the initial exams showed that the levels of CRP had improved and lonely older adults who were able to change their thinking of their health circumstances in a more positive light reaped health benefits. These benefits included lowered health risk for problems related to inflammation and stress. Those who did not initially report feelings of loneliness did not show any change in the study, but researchers attribute social networks for helping these participants work through age-related issues.
The researchers believe that, all in all, the results of the study could help improve senior citizens´ perspectives on aging.
"It's my hope that our research may improve clinical treatment of lonely older adults," continued Wrosch, who also serves as member of the Centre for Research in Human Department at Concordia University, in the statement. "Older adults can be taught through counseling or therapy to engage in self-protective thoughts like staying positive when it comes to their own health. That means a better quality of life, both physically and mentally—something we all want at any age."
Results of the study will be published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.