A negative outlook on growing older can be more harmful than you realise

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Our attitude toward ageing affects how well we age.
Our attitude toward ageing affects how well we age.

The way you view ageing can affect how well you manage stress.

Older people who see ageing negatively have stronger (negative) emotional reactions to day-to-day stresses, while such events have little effect on the moods of adults who are more positive about getting older. Their sunny outlook acts as a buffer against little annoyances.

Increasing worry among the young

That's not all. People who carry negative views also have lower levels of satisfaction and well-being. And they're more likely to be hospitalised or die young, according to research published in the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences.

Surveys by the non-profit West Health Institute and the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago found that the time to gain a positive perspective on ageing is early in life – your 30s and 40s. This is when many people start to have general concerns about the future, such as facing health and financial issues, developing memory problems and losing their independence.

The survey found increasing worry among younger people that government programmes don't – and won't – do enough for seniors.

What can you do to ward off such worries? Stay on top of lifestyle habits that help you avoid serious health threats, like diabetes and heart disease, and that maintain mental sharpness. These include eating a healthful diet, doing regular exercise and getting enough sleep.

But beyond activities that benefit your physical side, add in those that boost mental health. Consider volunteering to develop "emotional capital", as in mentoring programmes that allow you to share what you've learned in life with the next generation.

Image credit: iStock

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