People who enjoy life maintain better physical function as they age

January 20, 2014

People who enjoy life maintain better physical function in daily activities and keep up faster walking speeds as they age, compared with people who enjoy life less, according to a new study in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

A study of 3199 men and women aged 60 years or over living in England looked at the link between positive well-being and physical well-being, following over 8 years. Participants were divided into three age categories: 60–69, 70–79 and 80 years or over. Researchers from University College London (UCL), United Kingdom, assessed participants' enjoyment of life with a four-point scale, rating the following questions: "I enjoy the things that I do," "I enjoy being in the company of others," "On balance, I look back on my life with a sense of happiness" and "I feel full of energy these days." Researchers used personal interviews to determine whether participants had impairments in such as getting out of bed, getting dressed, bathing or showering. They gauged walking speed with a gait test.

"The study shows that who are happier and enjoy life more show slower declines in physical function as they age," states Dr. Andrew Steptoe, UCL. "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."

Participants in the 60–69-year bracket had higher levels of well-being as did those with higher socioeconomic status and education and those who were married and working. Not surprisingly, people with chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, stroke and depression had lower levels of enjoyment of life.

People with low well-being were more than three times as likely as their positive counterparts to develop problems in their daily physical activities.

"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," Steptoe says. "Our previous work has shown that older people with greater enjoyment of life are more likely to survive over the next 8 years; what this study shows is that they also keep up better physical function."

"Our results provide further evidence that enjoyment of is relevant to the future disability and mobility of older people," Steptoe and coauthors conclude. "Efforts to enhance well-being at older ages may have benefits to society and health care systems."

Explore further: Balance and strength training can prevent falls in older people

More information: Paper: www.cmaj.ca/lookup/doi/10.1503/cmaj.131155

Related Stories

Chronic condition prevention urged for better life quality

October 26, 2013

(HealthDay)—For older adults, multiple chronic conditions are associated with worse health in terms of activities of daily living and health-related quality of life, according to a study published Sept. 26 in the U.S. Centers ...

Recommended for you

Clock controls junk food appeal

July 22, 2016

When it comes to extra kilojoules, a little more self-restraint won't go astray as the day progresses. New research from Flinders University and Liverpool University has studied the urge to snack more later in the day, even ...

Diagnoses: When are several opinions better than one?

July 22, 2016

Methods of collective intelligence can result in considerably more accurate medical diagnoses, but only under certain conditions. A study headed by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development has shed new ...

How to increase the fat burned during exercise

July 19, 2016

During exercise, oxidation of fat and carbohydrates depends on the intensity and duration of the activity. A new study analyses the effect of consuming an alkaloid, p-synephrine, on the burning of lipids and refutes the value ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.