Academics at Yale say that people who think negatively about growing old are more likely to suffer brain changes that lead to Alzheimer's disease.
Becca Levy, Associate Professor of Public Health and Psychology, said: "We believe it is the stress generated by the negative beliefs about ageing that individuals sometimes internalise from society that can result in pathological brain changes".
The results were obtained by looking at the MRI scans of 158 people who had their brains scanned once a year for 10 years. Individuals were also asked how much they agreed with negative statements about growing old. The study found that those with more negative beliefs about ageing had a greater decline over the 10 year period in the volume of their brain's hippocampus (critical to memory), which is also an indicator of Alzheimer's disease. Brain autopsies on people who had died looked for two other indicators of the disease - amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. Those with negative thoughts about ageing had a far higher amount of plaques and tangles.
The good news is that if negative beliefs about ageing can be reduced and positive beliefs about ageing reinforced, then the adverse affect is not inevitable.
Those of us working in health and social care are more than aware of the growing impact of dementia in this country. Perhaps it is time to start being more positive about ageing in general, and acknowledging the positive contribution that older people make to our society?
This study is published in the journal Psychology and Ageing.