Enjoying one's life may be tied to higher levels of physical function later in life, a new study published in Canadian Medical Association Journal found.
In the past, research has suggested that individuals over 50 years old who enjoy life live longer. The new study, led by researchers from University of College London, found evidence linking a happy disposition and increased walking speed, among other things.
"The study shows that older people who are happier and enjoy life more show slower declines in physical function as they age," said Dr. Andrew Steptoe, an expert in aging. "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 and his colleagues looked at 3,199 men and women 60 years old and older living in England. For more than eight years, the researchers followed the participants, who were divided into three categories - those in their 60s, 70s, and 80s or older.
Life enjoyment was ranked on a four-point scale based on answers to a series of questions, including "I enjoy the things that I do," "I enjoy being in the company of others," and "On balance, I look back on my life with a sense of happiness."
The results showed that those who reported low levels of well-being were more than three times as likely to develop problems when it came to performing daily activities when compared to their happier counterparts.
"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," Steptoe said.
"Our results provide further evidence that enjoyment of life is relevant to the future disability and mobility of older people," Steptoe and co-authors concluded. "Efforts to enhance well-being at older ages may have benefits to society and health care systems."
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