As Americans age, one element seems to be key for his or her mental and physical health: optimism. That’s the finding suggested by a replacement Humana survey, which asked Americans age 60 and over how they perceive the importance of varied wellness traits.
Although the survey uncovered many perspectives, the findings about optimism suggest a possible link between a “glass half full” mentality and mental and physical health:
- Older Americans who rated themselves as very optimistic about aging attended be the foremost active physically, socially and in their communities.
- They also reported a way lower number of physically unhealthy days per month on the average: 2.84 for the foremost optimistic, compared to 12.55 physically unhealthy days for the smallest amount optimistic
- the foremost optimistic also felt on the average 12 years younger than their actual age (those who are least optimistic felt on the average 7 years older than their actual age).
The survey also asked respondents to rate how they feel about the depiction of individuals age 60 and over in pop culture: in film, television, commercials then on. Overwhelmingly, the respondents perceived these media portrayals of their own demographic as inaccurate, rating the accuracy level as, on average, 5 or less on a 10-point scale. Those aging Americans who do feel that media accurately portrays them believe aging quite the typical and have a better level of fear about aging than their peers.
Humana also recently partnered with The University of Southern California (USC) to require a first-ever check out society’s views of aging in America through the lens of film. The USC study reveals that characters aged 60 and over are underrepresented in film, which those characters who do appear face demeaning or ageist references. Key findings from the study include:
- Just 11 percent of characters evaluated were aged 60 and over; U.S. Census data shows that 18.5 percent of the population is aged 60 and over.
- Out of 57 films that featured a number one or supporting senior character, 30 featured ageist comments — that’s quite half the films. Quotes included characters being called “a relic,” “a frail old woman” and “a senile old man.”
- Only 29.1 percent of on-screen characters engaged with technology, whereas 84 percent of aging Americans report that they use the web weekly.
Taken together, these findings feed into growing evidence that suggest that ageism may be a social determinant of health and should negatively impact health outcomes for aging Americans. Societal views and negative media portrayals can cause aging Americans to feel invisible. These negative perceptions may dampen optimistic outlooks and impact physical and emotional health.
Humana wants to assist aging Americans defy stereotypes, age with optimism and take steps to realize their best health.