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Enjoying life aids healthy ageing

Published on 21 January 2014 12:00 PM

Happiness is the key to maintaining health in old age, according to a study reported by The Telegraph.

Researchers from University College London have found that happy people are fitter and healthier than those who are unhappy.

Investigating the link between positive emotional well-being and physical well-being, they examined a total of 3,199 men and women aged 60 years or older living in England over the course of an 8-year period.

'The study shows that older people who are happier and enjoy life more show slower declines in physical function as they age,' Dr Andrew Steptoe of University College London said.

'They are less likely to develop impairments in activities of daily living such as dressing or getting in or out of bed, and their walking speed declines at a slower rate than those who enjoy life less.

'This is not because the happier people are in better health, or younger, or richer, or have more healthy lifestyles at the outset, since even when we take these factors into account, the relationship persists.'

Happier people show slower declines in physical function

Personal interviews were used to determine whether participants had impairments in daily activities such as getting out of bed, getting dressed, bathing or showering, while their walking speed was gauged with a gait test.

Individuals who enjoy life were found to walk at a faster pace and are more physically active on a daily basis when they get older, compared to unhappy people.

Happy older people also had less trouble getting out of bed, getting dressed or showering, while unhappy people, on the other hand, were twice as likely to have health problems such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, arthritis.

The findings, which are published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, also show that participants in the 60 to 69 age bracket had higher levels of well-being, as did those with higher a socio-economic status, better education, as well as those who were married and in employment.

Furthermore, older people with low well-being were more than 3 times as likely as their positive counterparts to develop problems in their daily physical activities.

This provides further evidence that enjoyment of life is relevant to the future disability and mobility of older people

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: 'Enjoying life by being socially engaged and having control over our decisions is really important for our physical and mental wellbeing. Conversely we know that loneliness and isolation, living with unmet care needs or having money worries can have a detrimental effect.

'It is important that Government, healthcare professionals and other agencies are aware of the importance of mental wellbeing and that older people are supported in a holistic manner, empowering people to make choices that are right for them.'

Copyright Press Association 2014

Last updated: Oct 06 2017

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