The Impact of Happiness on Aging

Posted by Hilary Young on September 30, 2013

The Impact of Happiness on Aging

Happiness is a goal that most people strive to achieve – usually for mental well-being. However, the benefits of happiness are far reaching, with scores of recent research studies finding that mental peace or general happiness can positively affect overall health, ability to recover from a disability, and an individual’s longevity.

Risks of Unhappiness in Seniors

These studies are significant for the senior population. As age brings decreased mobility, cognitive decline, and increased health concerns, it is quite common for seniors to experience stress, depression, and anxiety. Negative mental health directly affects negative physical health. Seniors who suffer from depression are more likely to develop life-threatening diseases, less likely to recover from illnesses, and 25% more likely than the general population to commit suicide.

The Power of Happiness

The common adage that, “age is just a number” is getting support from researchers at the Yale School of Public Health. Their 11-year study found that individuals’ perception and attitude toward their age was a determining factor for their happiness and overall health. Happy seniors are often healthier seniors!

Yale’s research supports a famous earlier study conducted by Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer. Langer found that individuals who acted 20 years younger than they were had better flexibility, dexterity, and even looked younger. Both studies found that one’s viewpoint on aging and the expectation of stereotypes were powerful determinants of happiness and health. They found that if seniors believed their bodies and cognitive power would soon break down, then they were much more likely to experience these declines.

The Cognitive Benefit

The power of happiness does not stop at physical health. Research conducted by Ohio State University has found that happiness positively affects cognition in the elderly. An improved mood led to better results in the cognition test – providing powerful implications for the senior population. Declines in memory and brain function causes significant distress in seniors’ lives, and efforts to increase happiness can also increase cognitive ability.

Whether it is family, music, a great book, a home cooked meal, or an evening walk – finding that little piece of life that brings you happiness could also help you live longer and function at a higher level.


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