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Positive attitudes can help elderly deal with stress

Positive attitudes can help elderly deal with stress
5th August 2016

A new study has found that having a positive attitude towards ageing can make older people more prepared when it comes to handling stressful situations.

Researchers from North Carolina State University looked at more than 40 adults between the age of 60 and 96. Each was asked to fill out a questionnaire a day for eight consecutive days that looked at their attitude to ageing.

The questionnaire also asked participants about their stress levels throughout the day such as whether they'd experienced any fear, irritability or distress.

Jennifer Bellingtier, a PhD student at NC State and lead author of a paper describing the work, said a lot of research has been done on how older adults respond to stress but the findings have been mixed.

"We wanted to see whether attitudes toward ageing could account for this disparity in research findings," she explained.

The study found that people with more positive attitudes toward ageing were more resilient in response to stress, meaning that there wasn't a significant increase in negative emotions. However, participants with more negative attitudes toward ageing experienced a sharp increase in negative emotional affect on stressful days.

These findings could help older people better prepare for ageing and make it easier for those involved in elderly care to improve the mental health and wellbeing of adults who are struggling with stress.

Shevaun Neupert, an associate professor of psychology at NC State and senior author on the paper, said the research highlights that the way people think about ageing has very real consequences on our responses to difficult situations.

She said: "That affects our quality of life and may also have health ramifications. For example, more adverse emotional responses to stress have been associated with increased cardiovascular health risks."

Helping older people lead independent and active lives as they age can make a big difference to how they feel about getting older.