`Old age may just be a state of mind`

Old age may be a state of mind as well as the body, say scientists who found that people who have a younger outlook in life are healthier in old age.

According to a new study, older adults who categorise themselves as old and frail encourage attitudinal and behavioural confirmation of that identity.

Researchers led by Krystal Warmoth and colleagues at University of Exeter Medical School interviewed 29 older adults in the South West of England face-to-face.

Interviews conducted asked about their experiences of ageing and frailty. Self-perception and identification related to one’s health and participation in an active life.

They found people who consider themselves to be frail are more likely to abandon activities which can keep them healthy in old age such as taking regular exercise.

One`s attitude could lead to a loss of interest in participating in social and physical activities, poor health, stigmatisation, and reduced quality of life, researchers said.

One respondent stated it clearly: “If people think that they are old and frail, they will act like they`re old and frail.”

A cycle of decline was also described whereby perceiving oneself as frail was felt to lead to disengaging in activities that could reduce the likelihood of frailty , such as physical exercise, and, in turn, more health and functioning problems.

“This study gives insight into the role of social psychological factors in older adults` health and activity,” Warmoth said in a statement.

The study was presented at the British Psychological Society Annual Conference in Harrogate.