Yeah, that's what we've been saying....

No surprise here for disability rights activists, but seems now a researcher out in San Diego -- a psychiatrist -- has discovered that -- surprise! -- "physical health" is not a good indicator of "successful aging."

"For most people, worries about their future aging involve fear of physical infirmity, disease or disability," said the press release about Dilip Jeste's study, but said that the "findings appear to contradict the widespread belief that successful aging is solely dependent on physical condition and health."

From Forbes:

The 500 study participants were between 60 to 98 years of age and lived independently, outside of any nursing home or assisted living center. Each of them were asked to rate their personal degree of successful aging on a 10-point scale, with 10 being the most successful. Their average rating was 8.4.

According to the researchers, the majority of respondents who gave themselves a high rating would not meet the criteria for successful aging as assessed by traditional physical health measures, such as the absence of disease or disability.

"People who think they are aging well are not necessarily the most healthy individuals," Jeste said. "In fact, optimism and effective coping styles were found to be more important to aging successfully than traditional measures of health and wellness.

And not having to live in a nursing home might have something to do with it as well. But none of the articles we read about this study seemed to pick up on that point. They all noted that Jeste credited the study subjects' "attitude."

Activist crips alwasy say that disability is no indicator of happiness. But of course doctors and health professionals always think it is.

This goes along with the finding in other studies (I don't have the citations but maybe someone can send them to me, and later I'll put them here) that show that severely disabled people's own perceptions of their "quality of life" are consistently higher than what "medical professionals" think they should be.

This study was released a few weeks ago and had a flurry of news items, but nothing too huge. Fox News reported on it. Other stories about the study can be found at WebMD and SeniorJournal.

Interesting that the study credited "attitude" as the cause of "successful aging." I wonder whether researchers have thought to look at why "attitudes" among this population are good. That is, if it isn't a chicken-and-egg thing: if you get to stay in your home, if you are allowed to be independent, and around friends, then your "attitude" stays fairly good. Hmmm....

There's an interview with Jeste at MedScape -- it's not the study itself, but it gives more detail than the links above. When I read it, though, I was struck with how often the theme of "health" kept coming up, despite the finding that "health" is not the key factor. Another hmmm.

December 29, 2005 | Email this story


Comments (newest comments at bottom)

"I was struck with how often the theme of "health" kept coming up, despite the finding that "health" is not the key factor. Another hmmm."

Old superstitions die hard but the good news is that they so often finally die and most of us no longer think women shouldn't vote.

As to the semantics through which we get delusional words/phrases ("attitude" - "will power") into use even though we KNOW (whatever that means!) that just spouting words does not inform. Most of these terms have no territory to map; e.g. in sports when someone just scored they are said to have "momentum" which is just another utterance saying the same thing as that they just scored, but whole philosophies become built around "momentum" manipulation rather than around scoring.


Posted by: William Loughborough on December 29, 2005 10:19 AM

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