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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

A positive attitude is the secret to a happy old age, says American psychiatrist

Embargoed until 11 July 2012

A ‘glass half full attitude’ is the secret to successful ageing, according to early findings from a US study. Professor Dilip Jeste, President of the American Psychiatric Association and Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry & Neurosciences at the University of California, told delegates at the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ International Congress 2012 in Liverpool that being optimistic is an important strategy for living a happy old age. Other important qualities linked to an enjoyable retirement are wisdom, resilience, and a stimulating environment.

Since 2010, Dr Jeste has led a long-term study evaluating what factors are associated with successful ageing. The Successful Ageing Evaluation Study (SAGE) looks at more than 1,000 randomly chosen people aged 50 to 100, living in San Diego, California. Not surprisingly, early findings show that as people get older their physical health tends to decline. But poor physical health was not necessarily linked with a negative experience of ageing. When people were asked to rate whether they thought they were ageing well, the older they were, the more likely they were to be positive about ageing. And having a positive attitude towards life was found to be associated with successful ageing.

Dr Jeste told delegates: “This study shows that just because our physical health tends to decline as we get older, doesn’t mean we can’t have an enjoyable old age. Society tends to have a negative attitude towards older people, but getting older is not all doom and gloom. Being optimistic, resilient, keeping the mind active, and living in a stimulating environment are essential qualities that help people to get the most out of life as they get older.”

Dr Jeste urged psychiatrists and other health professionals not to measure older people’s well-being purely on their physical health, but to remember that staying mentally active and having a positive attitude to life are important factors in staying well.

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The Royal College of Psychiatrists' International Congress 2012 was held in Liverpool, 10-13 July 2012.


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