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: Many older Americans rely on people, devices, other strategies to get by

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

Related Stories

Many older Americans rely on people, devices, other strategies to get by

December 12, 2013
Only about a third of Americans ages 65 and older are fully able to take care of themselves and go about their daily lives completely independently, according to a new study published online in the American Journal of Public ...

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 ...

Regular physical activity in later life boosts likelihood of 'healthy aging' up to sevenfold

November 25, 2013
It's never too late to get physically active, with even those starting relatively late in life reaping significant health benefits, finds research published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Balance and strength training can prevent falls in older people

August 7, 2012
Balance and strength training is known to reduce falls in older adults. However, less than 10% of older people routinely engage in strength training and it is likely that this is much lower for activities that challenge balance.

Physical inactivity, poor diet and smoking linked to disability in older population

July 24, 2013
Disability is commonly defined as "difficulty or dependency in carrying out activities essential to independent living". With the number of disabled people expected to increase in coming years, researchers feel there is a ...

Recommended for you

To combat teen smoking, health experts recommend R ratings for movies that depict tobacco use

July 21, 2017
Public health experts have an unusual suggestion for reducing teen smoking: Give just about any movie that depicts tobacco use an automatic R rating.

Aging Americans enjoy longer life, better health when avoiding three risky behaviors

July 20, 2017
We've heard it before from our doctors and other health experts: Keep your weight down, don't smoke and cut back on the alcohol if you want to live longer.

Opioids and obesity, not 'despair deaths,' raising mortality rates for white Americans

July 20, 2017
Drug-related deaths among middle-aged white men increased more than 25-fold between 1980 and 2014, with the bulk of that spike occurring since the mid-1990s when addictive prescription opioids became broadly available, according ...

Parents have critical role in preventing teen drinking

July 20, 2017
Fewer teenagers are drinking alcohol but more needs to be done to curb the drinking habits of Australian school students, based on the findings of the latest study by Adelaide researchers.

Fresh fish oil lowers diabetes risk in rat offspring

July 19, 2017
Fresh fish oil given to overweight pregnant rats prevented their offspring from developing a major diabetes risk factor, Auckland researchers have found.

High-dose vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles for children

July 18, 2017
Giving children high doses of vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles, a new study has found.

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.