Published June 12, 2012
People who are encouraged to feel old are five times more likely to be diagnosed with dementia than those in the same age group with a positive outlook on their longevity, British scientists said Tuesday.
University of Exeter researchers came to the conclusion after studying two groups of participants aged between 60 and 70 who had been primed to feel either older or younger before their cognitive ability was tested.
One set of volunteers was told they were being placed in an age bracket for 40- to 70-year-olds, while those in the "younger" group were told they were among participants aged between 60 and 90 years.
The participants were then given reading materials that focused on the negative effects of aging on memory loss or cognitive ability, and were quizzed on what they had read.
Results showed that 70 percent of participants in the "older" age group met the criterion for dementia, while just 14 percent of those who had been encouraged to see themselves as "younger" were given the diagnosis.
The findings were presented Tuesday at the university's first International Conference on Social Identity and Health.
Lead author Dr. Catherine Haslam said, "Our research shows that the effect of age perceptions on performance can be dramatic, and that seeing oneself as 'older' significantly increases a person's risk of being diagnosed with dementia on such tests."
"It highlights the importance of taking a person's attitude towards their age into account when assessing for dementia," she added.