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Wellbeing increase in later life, research shows

Wellbeing increase in later life, research shows
29th February 2016

There are often concerns about the elderly becoming isolated and suffering from loneliness, which can lead to a number of further health problems. However, a new study has suggested that those heading into later life actually have a much better wellbeing than many of their younger counterparts.

New research from the Medical Research Council has found that levels of happiness increase for a person in their 60s, as they get nearer the age of 70. This is apparent, despite many in this age range suffering from chronic disease and other health problems.

During the study, 1,700 participants were asked to record how confident, cheerful, relaxed and useful they felt in their early 60s, and then again when they were 68 and 69. It looked to measure how health and wellbeing changed throughout a person's lifetime.

The researchers compared the data recorded when the participants were aged between 60 and 64 to that when they were approaching their 70th birthday. They found that there was an overall improvement in all areas of wellbeing.

Dr Mai Stafford, the programme leader at the Medical Research Council's unit for lifelong health and ageing at University College London, said it was difficult to understand why this trend was happening to people during their 60s.

"We found that one in five experienced a substantial increase in wellbeing in later life, although we also found a smaller group who experienced a substantial decline," she said.

Dr Stafford explained that the benefit of this type of study was that you can see how individuals develop over time, which should allow better interpretation of the data.

She said: "We hope this will allow us to pinpoint which common experiences may be linked to an improvement in wellbeing in later life."

Recently, separate research identified people between the age of 65 and 79 were the happiest age group. In contrast, those aged 45 to 59 recorded the lowest levels of satisfaction, with a combination of ageing parents and children still living at home causing them high levels of stress.

In later life, it is likely that people are more able to focus on themselves and prioritise what is important to them. Without the stresses and pressures of work and family, people of this age group are able to develop social relationships that help improve their wellbeing and nourish their mental health.

Dr Stafford said: "By that time you've worked out what makes you feel better and what doesn't."

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