Is age just an attitude? In a new study announced last week, seniors who see themselves as "older" are five times more likely to meet the criteria for dementia than seniors who see themselves as "younger."
Researchers from the University of Exeter surveyed 68 people, aged 60 to 70, who were divided into two groups. The first group was told that other study participants ranged in age from 40 to 70 and that they were at the older end of the age range. The other group was told that the participants ranged in age from 60 to 90 and that they were at the younger end of the scale.
The subjects were given one of two articles to read, which described either how aging affected memory or how aging affected general thinking ability. They then took a standard dementia screening test.
In the group encouraged to see themselves as older and who read the article that said aging was associated with a general decline in thinking ability, 70 percent met the criteria for dementia, compared with 14 percent of those in the other groups.
"Our research shows that the effect of age perceptions on performance can be dramatic, and that seeing oneself as 'older' significantly increases a person's risk of being diagnosed with dementia on such tests," said study lead author Dr. Catherine Haslam in a statement. "It highlights the importance of taking a person's attitude towards their age into account when assessing for dementia."
The yet-to-be-published study was presented last week at the International Conference on Social Identity and Health.
Recent research also supports the notion of a longevity personality, finding that people who are optimistic, easy-going, social, and enjoy having a good laugh live longer than their more neurotic counterparts. Iraeli researchers found that personality traits such as being outgoing, optimistic and easygoing, enjoying laughter and staying engaged in activities may be a crucial part of the mix.