So much of our societys efforts, the products we buy and the ideologies we adopt are directly related to our obsession with youth and fear of our own mortality.
But according to two brand new studies in the journal Psychology and Aging, this fear of aging and the common negative stereotypes one may believe regarding the process could directly influence how that person ages.
Its like a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts.
The findings, which were compiled by researchers from the Yale School of Public Health, is the first time this sort of link has been made between ones attitude towards aging and the likelihood of facing diseases such as Alzheimers.
In one study, researchers looked at 158 healthy individuals without dementia who were a part of the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, Americas oldest scientific study of aging, which was initiated in 1958.
Each of the 158 participants responded to a set of scaled questions involving statements such as older people are absent minded and older people have trouble learning new things.
25 years after those questions were originally posed, those 158 individuals were roughly 68 years old and began undergoing MRI brain scans that monitored the volume of their hippocampus. Volume loss in this region is associated with Alzheimers disease.
Interestingly enough, individuals who agreed more with the negative stereotypes regarding aging were far more likely to experience greater hippocampal volume loss. How much more likely? That group lost the same amount of volume in three years than the more positive thinkers regarding aging lost in nine years.
Things get even more interesting in the other study that led Yale researchers to their conclusion. In this study, they examined the buildup of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, two other indicators of Alzheimers disease. Research was conducted in the form of brain autopsies on the same group of individuals who were asked about their attitudes towards aging.
The results were consistent with those aforementioned; those who held negative beliefs about aging were significantly more likely to face brain disorders as they aged, which was evidenced by the higher amount of plaques and tangles in their brains.
What could be causing this? Research indicates that stress is quite likely to blame. When aging individuals are faced with a great amount of stressors, their cardiovascular response is increased. This leads to several negative health effects, which are outlined in the article Ive hyperlinked above.
So theres a ton of evidence supporting the thought that the way many of us feel about aging is having a largely negative impact on our health. But what can we do about it?
Learning to see through anti-aging product marketing campaigns and even Hollywoods obsession with youth arent bad places to start. Somehow, weve equated aging to something negative, something one should avoid at quite literally all costs. While aging certainly does present its challenges, it also does bring experience and, if youve used the time youve had to the best of your ability and taken care of yourself, many rewards. So start aging well today, right now.