Fear of age­ing may kill you early

The Sun (Malaysia) - - LIFESTYLE -

BE­ING afraid of grow­ing old may shorten your life, the United Na­tions health agency said re­cently, as new data high­lighted the wide­spread preva­lence of ageist at­ti­tudes world­wide.

In a first-of-its-kind sur­vey re­leased by the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion, 60% of re­spon­dents said they be­lieved older peo­ple “were not re­spected”.

At­ti­tudes to­wards older peo­ple were more neg­a­tive in richer coun­tries, ac­cord­ing to the data from more than 83,000 re­spon­dents, aged 18 years and older, who are from 57 coun­tries.

The data con­firms “that ageism is ex­tremely com­mon”, said John Beard, WHO’s head of Age­ing and Life Course.

He warned that dis­crim­i­na­tory and neg­a­tive views about older peo­ple can have sweep­ing con­se­quences, younger peo­ple.

“There is very good ev­i­dence that peo­ple who have neg­a­tive views of them­selves as they grow older ... it short­ens their lives,” Beard told re­porters.

WHO cited re­cently pub­lished re­search in­di­cat­ing that “peo­ple who hold neg­a­tive views about their own age­ing, do not re­cover as well from dis­abil­ity and live on av­er­age 7.5 years less than peo­ple with pos­i­tive at­ti­tudes”.

At­ti­tudes about age­ing are “on the level that racism and sex­ism were maybe 20, 30 or 40 years ago”, Beard said, adding that “things which are no longer ac­cepted if you were talk­ing about some­one on the ba­sis of their race or sex are still tol­er­ated when it comes down to their age”.

WHO does not de­fine the group in­clud­ing for of peo­ple vic­timised by ageism. Such dis­crim­i­na­tion could be di­rected at a 50-year-old seek­ing a new job, or a 65-year-old fac­ing mandatory re­tire­ment but who re­mains a pro­duc­tive em­ployee.

The WHO of­fi­cial also came out against com­pul­sory, age-de­fined poli­cies like mandatory re­tire­ment, de­scrib­ing them as “prob­lem­atic”.

In seek­ing a more just def­i­ni­tion of what it means to be old, Beard said WHO had be­gun us­ing the mid-point of life ex­pectancy in each coun­try.

That means, for ex­am­ple, in Bri­tain, where life ex­pectancy is 81, any­one over 41 would be de­fined as “older”, Beard said, voic­ing hope that this new def­i­ni­tion would be “lib­er­at­ing” for those who viewed the on­set of their 60s as an omi­nous bench­mark. – AFP

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