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Description: Quick question! How are attitudes towards aging and aging related health related? I am guessing but I suspect your answer to that question was something like; they are related in that as your health declines your attitudes about aging become more negative. That does seem to make sense. Those of us in our late 60’s (well maybe just me) notice things like being able to predict the imminent arrival of rain by pain in our knees do tend to lead to statement about aging not being for the faint-hearted, or as Bette Davis put it so accurately “Aging ain’t for sissies!” So, yes health and attitudes towards aging are likely correlated but are our causal assumptions about that correlation absolutely correct? The standard statement about correlation and causation goes something this: Attributing causality when you have a correlation is not straightforward because if two variables, A and B are correlated it might be the case that A causes changes in B or that B causes changes in A OR that changes in BOTH A and B are caused by some other, currently unmeasured and therefore unconsidered variable. At a simple level what this means is that declining health with age may cause a decline in attitudes towards but what about the possibility that increasingly positive attitudes towards aging might lead to increasingly healthy aging? If THAT is a hypothesis worth investigating (I think it IS) then what sorts of research design would one use? Once you have your thoughts on that sorted out read the articles linked below that describes recent research by folks from the University of British Columbia (my alma mater… Go Thunderbirds!) that sought to address just that causal hypothesis.

Source: New research: When people’s attitudes about aging improve, better health may follow, Eric Kim and Julia Nakamura, UBC News.

Date: February 9, 2022

Image by geralt from Pixabay

Article Link: https://psych.ubc.ca/news/when-peoples-attitudes-about-aging-improve-better-health-may-follow/

So, had you decided that a longitudinal design would be a good way to get the causal data that was needed to address the casual questions of the relationship between aging satisfaction and health? While it is not a fully experimental design (that would have been unethical), the longitudinal design produced results that indicate that increases in aging satisfaction lead to better health at a later point in time. While more research is needed, of course, it might be a good idea to think a bit about what sorts of things could be done to increase general satisfaction with aging in our aging population. Oh and look up Ikigai as a concept that might help us to move all this along (you can start with a few of the articles linked in the Further Reading section below).

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How are attitudes towards aging and health in advancing years related?
  2. If the study results bear up under replication (others find similar results) what do they suggest about the causal relationship between attitudes towards aging and aging health?
  3. What sorts of interventions or other general changes might be worth considering if the research discussed bears up?

References (Read Further):

Nakamura, J. S., Hong, J. H., Smith, J., Chopik, W. J., Chen, Y., VanderWeele, T. J., & Kim, E. S. (2022). Associations Between Satisfaction With Aging and Health and Well-being Outcomes Among Older US Adults. JAMA network open, 5(2), e2147797-e2147797. Link

Deaton, A. (2010). Income, Aging, Health, and Well-Being around the World (p. 235). University of Chicago Press. Link

Ghimire, S., Baral, B. K., Karmacharya, I., Callahan, K., & Mishra, S. R. (2018). Life satisfaction among elderly patients in Nepal: associations with nutritional and mental well-being. Health and quality of life outcomes, 16(1), 1-10. Link

Nakao, R., Nitta, A., Yumiba, M., Ota, K., Kamohara, S., & Ohnishi, M. (2021). Factors related to ikigai among older residents participating in hillside residential community-based activities in Nagasaki City, Japan. Journal of Rural Medicine, 16(1), 42-46. Link

Kotera, Y., Kaluzeviciute, G., Gulcan, G., McEwan, K., & Chamberlain, K. (2021). Health Benefits of Ikigai: A Review of Literature. In Y. Kotera & D. Fido (Eds.). ‘Ikigai: Towards a psychological understanding of a life worth living’. Ontario, Canada: Concurrent Disorders Society Publishing, pp. 1-13. Link

Wilkes, J., Garip, G., Kotera, Y., & Fido, D. (2022). Can Ikigai Predict Anxiety, Depression, and Well-being?. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 1-13. Link