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Ageism and health: Study shows close link

Ageism and health: Study shows close link

Meanwhile, 65% of the older adults said they regularly see, hear or read jokes about older people, or messages that older adults are unattractive or undesirable.

Another class of ageist experiences – which the researchers call interpersonal ageism – was reported as a regular occurrence by 45% of the respondents. These included experiences involving another person, where the older person felt it was assumed that they were having trouble with using technology, seeing, hearing, understanding, remembering, or doing something independently – or that they don’t do anything valuable.  

The researchers calculated Everyday Ageism scores for every one of the more than 2,000 poll respondents, based on their responses to all the poll questions.

The overall average score was just over 10. As a group, people who were ages 65 to 80 scored over 11, indicating more ageism experiences those among those ages 50-64.

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People who had lower levels of income or education, and those who lived in rural areas, also had average ageism scores that were higher than others. Older adults who reported spending four hours or more every day watching television, browsing the internet or reading magazines had higher scores than those with less exposure to such media.

The researchers then looked at each person’s individual score in light of what they had said about their own health, including self-rated physical and mental health, number of chronic health conditions and report of depression symptoms.

They found a close link between higher scores and all four health-related measures. That is, those who reported higher Everyday Ageism scores were more likely to have reported that their overall physical health or overall mental health were fair or poor, more chronic health conditions, and depression symptoms.

SEE ALSO: Most Adults Say They’ve Experienced Ageism, But Majority Still Hold Positive Attitudes Toward Aging

A lot of this linkage had to do with internalized ageism measures – the questions that measured how strongly a person agreed with the statements about health problems, loneliness and sadness being part of getting older. But experiences with the interpersonal forms of ageism were also linked to health-related measures, as were some aspects of ageist messages.

The relationship between ageism experiences in older adults’ day-to-day lives and health especially interests poll director and senior author Preeti Malani, M.D., a professor at Michigan Medicine with a background in caring for older adults.

“The fact that our poll respondents who said they’d felt the most forms of ageism were also more likely to say their physical or mental health was fair or poor, or to have a chronic condition such as diabetes or heart disease, is something that needs more examination,” she said.

Learn more about the National Poll on Healthy Agingand sign up to receive new reports as they are published, and read more on the data from the new study.

Additional authors include Erica Solway, Ph.D., M.S.W., M.P.H.; Matthias Kirch, M.S.; Dianne Singer, M.P.H.; Jeffrey T. Kullgren, M.D., M.S., M.P.H.; ValerieMoïse, M.S.

The study was funded in part by a grant to the U-M Population Studies Center, where Allen was a postdoctoral fellow, from the National Institute on Aging (AG000221). The University of Oklahoma Libraries Open Access Fund also provided support.

Paper cited: “Experiences of Everyday Ageism and the Health of Older US Adults,” JAMA Network Open. DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.17240

 

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