October 28, 2008

Study: How to Be a ‘Thriver’ While Aging

U.S. and Canadian researchers said they have identified the factors that help the adults to thrive into old age.

Portland State University, the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, Oregon Health & Science University and Statistics Canada surveyed 2,432 older Canadians ages 65-85, about their quality of life.

The few who maintained excellent health over an entire decade were considered "thrivers." Most previous studies focused on one-time surveys and factors that contribute to poor health, the researchers said.

"Important predictors of 'thriving' were the absence of chronic illness, income over $30,000, having never smoked and drinking alcohol in moderation," lead author Mark Kaplan of Portland State University said in a statement.

"We also found that people who had a positive outlook and lower stress levels were more likely to thrive in old age."

Study participants filled out an extensive health survey every other year, starting in 1994 and continuing through 2004. One measure, called the Health Utilities Index, asked study subjects to rate their abilities in eight categories, including vision, hearing, speech, ambulation, dexterity, emotion, cognition and pain. "Thrivers" were those who rated themselves as having no or only mild disability in all eight categories on at least five of the six surveys.

The findings were published in The Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences.