Health and happiness.
They’re society’s ultimate pursuits. Young or old, we all want them regardless of what stage of life we are at.
But achieving them can become more difficult as we get older. Your physical health can suffer, as you are more likely to become ill or disabled. Factors like loneliness and lack of income after retirement can also increase your risk of developing a mental health condition like depression.
But is there a connection between the two?
Does your level of health affect your happiness in old age?
The scientists behind this study from the University of Bordeaux in France say that it does. They have found there is a very strong link between the physical health of the elderly, and their level of happiness.
What’s the connection?
The scientists found that when the elderly’s physical health improved, they also started to feel more positive emotions. But feeling more positive emotions did not also improve their health.
In other words, being healthier generally made the elderly happier, but being happier did not also make them healthier.
This shows us that having good physical health is very important for the elderly’s happiness.
The participants were a group of 3754 elderly people.
Their physical health and positive emotions were measured six times across thirteen years. During this time, the participants aged between 62 and 101 years old.
But what exactly are ‘physical health’ and ‘positive emotions’?
There are many ways physical health and positive emotions can be defined.
In this study, physical health means how good the elderly felt that their breathing, eyesight and hearing had been lately. It also includes how many prescription drugs they were taking from their doctor.
Positive emotions mean everyday feelings of joy, contentment and happiness. These were measured by asking the elderly to answer four statements, for example “I enjoyed life”, with a number between 0 and 3 to say how much they had felt like this lately.
So what can we do?
This study shows us that physical health has a big effect on elderly people’s happiness.
If we want to look after the wellbeing of our loved ones and ourselves into old age, then we need to make good physical health a priority. This will increase positive emotions, and also reduce the chance of developing illness or disability.
As a global society, the size of the world’s elderly population is growing at a faster rate than ever before.
We all have elderly people in our life whom we care about, whether they are friends or relatives. There is a personal interest as well, as aging inevitably affects us all.
So let’s do all we can to make old age a healthy and happy time for everyone.
Interested in staying healthy as a senior? Visit healthdirect Australia
Want tips, support and information on staying mentally healthy from 60 to 80, and beyond? Visit beyondblue: Older People