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People who Enjoy Life Have Better Physical Functions as Seniors

Update Date: Jan 20, 2014 12:11 PM EST
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Maintaining good physical and mental health is important for overall wellbeing. In a new study, researchers reported that people who enjoy their lives are more likely to have better physical functions when they age.

In this study, the researchers examined 3,199 men and women from England. The participants were all over 60-years-old and separated into three age groups, which were 60-69, 70-79, and 80-years-old and above. They were followed for eight years. The researchers assessed the participants' positive well-being and physical well-being on a four-point scale. The researchers used questions such as, "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."

The researchers found that people in the 60-69-year-old group tended to have higher levels of well-being. Other factors that were tied to better well-being were higher socioeconomic status and higher education levels. People who worked and were married also had better well-being. The researchers also reported that people who reported lower levels of life enjoyment tended to have chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and depression.

"The study shows that older people who are happier and enjoy life more show slower declines in physical function as they age," stated Dr. Andrew Steptoe, University College London. "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."

Steptoe added, "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. 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 life is relevant to the future disability and mobility of older people. Efforts to enhance well-being at older ages may have benefits to society and health care systems."

The study was published in The Canadian Medical Association Journal.

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