Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Researchers identify secrets to happiness, depression among oldest of old

Date:
April 11, 2010
Source:
Iowa State University
Summary:
Researchers have helped identify what predicts happiness and long life in centenarians, as well as what causes depression in 80-somethings and above.

Peter Martin (right), director of Iowa State's gerontology program and a professor of human development and family studies, shares a laugh during a research session with local centenarian John Persinger.
Credit: Photo by Bob Elbert, ISU News Service

Researchers from Iowa State University's gerontology program have helped identify what predicts happiness and long life in centenarians, as well as what causes depression in 80-somethings and above.

In a study of 158 Georgia centenarians, the researchers found that past satisfaction with life -- even if it's simply recalling isolated career accomplishments -- is the key to happiness in our oldest years.

"The past is the best predictor of the future, so you're not going to turn your life around at 85 or 90," said Peter Martin, director of Iowa State's gerontology program and a professor of human development and family studies (HDFS), who collaborated on both studies. "But it's also good to know that past accomplishments and the happiness that you had -- looking back at your past -- carries you through these very last years."

For the depression study, researchers added 78 octogenarians (people 80 or older) to the happiness centenarian sample. They found that diminished cognitive problem-solving ability was a significant predictor of depressive symptoms in octogenarians, while living in a nursing home and greater neurotic tendencies increased depression among centenarians.

Both studies were published online in the Jan. 26 issue of the journal Gerontology. Jennifer Margrett, an assistant professor of HDFS, was the lead author on the depression study. Alex Bishop, an assistant professor of human development and family studies at Oklahoma State University (who was a doctoral student at Iowa State), was lead author of the happiness study.

Past life satisfaction pays happiness dividends

In that study, researchers analyzed the subjects' responses to a series of questions that assessed their happiness, perceived health, social provisions, economic security and life satisfaction. While there was no indication that resources affect happiness, past life satisfaction -- even individual achievements -- was found to have a direct association.

Because of their results, the researchers urge caregivers of the elderly to implement programs -- including reminiscence therapy and structured life review sessions -- to foster feelings of happiness among very old populations.

"You can be not overly satisfied with your overall current capacity and physical well-being, but you can still be a very happy person because there's a lot you can contribute just by sharing some of the things that nobody knew because it was 80 or 90 years ago," said Martin, who is also in the second year of a three-year study of Iowa centenarians.

In the second other study, researchers measured depressive symptoms, demographics and functional indicators, cognition and personality in the subjects. They then compared the ability of cognition, personality, and demographic and functional indicators in explaining depressive symptoms in the octogenarians and centenarians respectively.

They were surprised to learn that overall cognition was not a stronger predictor of depressive symptoms at either age. Rather, it was the loss of the subject's control -- problem-solving in the octogenarians, and choosing where they lived in the centenarians -- that tended to depress them.

"In the case of the octogenarians, it's not so much your intellectual ability as it is the ability to come up with a solution to a particular task that you used to be able to solve in your 60s and 70s," Martin said. "And so for the first time, you realize that there may be decline in being able to manage tasks.

"And at 100, it's not so much the surrounding of the nursing home that gets you depressed," he added. "But in a nursing home, two things have changed. First, there's a sign that you cannot take care of yourself anymore. And then there's the sign that you know you only have limited time to live, which is different for an 80-year-old."

Elderly worried about direction country is headed

The research also confirmed that worry and anxiety contribute to depression in centenarians. And one of the things they're worried about, according to Martin, is the direction the country is headed and the world they're leaving for their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Martin says these studies have practical applications for elderly care providers.

"When we have professionals who work with elderly in nursing homes, we pay so much attention to the helping condition -- make sure they eat, make sure they have their hygiene taken care of, and so forth -- but you also have to work on the mood aspect of it," Martin said. "And I know people who work in nursing homes have difficult jobs, but just a brief conversation with a very old person can lighten up their entire day."

The research team also published two related papers in the Jan. 26 issue of Gerontology. One confirms the importance of family history on present-day functioning among centenarians and octogenarians, while the other analyzed the influences on their economic dependency.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Iowa State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal References:

  1. Jennifer Margrett, Peter Martin, John L. Woodard, L. Stephen Miller, Maurice MacDonald, Joan Baenziger, Ilene C. Siegler, Adam Davey, Leonard Poon. Depression among Centenarians and the Oldest Old: Contributions of Cognition and Personality. Gerontology, 2010; 56 (1): 93 DOI: 10.1159/000272018
  2. Alex J. Bishop, Peter Martin, Maurice MacDonald, Leonard Poon. Predicting Happiness among Centenarians. Gerontology, 2010; 56 (1): 88 DOI: 10.1159/000272017

Cite This Page:

Iowa State University. "Researchers identify secrets to happiness, depression among oldest of old." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 April 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100409093413.htm>.
Iowa State University. (2010, April 11). Researchers identify secrets to happiness, depression among oldest of old. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100409093413.htm
Iowa State University. "Researchers identify secrets to happiness, depression among oldest of old." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/04/100409093413.htm (accessed September 2, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Can You Train Your Brain To Eat Healthy?

Can You Train Your Brain To Eat Healthy?

Newsy (Sep. 1, 2014) New research says if you condition yourself to eat healthy foods, eventually you'll crave them instead of junk food. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Coffee Then Napping: The (New) Key To Alertness

Coffee Then Napping: The (New) Key To Alertness

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) Researchers say having a cup of coffee then taking a nap is more effective than a nap or coffee alone. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Young Entrepreneurs Get $100,000, If They Quit School

Young Entrepreneurs Get $100,000, If They Quit School

AFP (Aug. 29, 2014) Twenty college-age students are getting 100,000 dollars from a Silicon Valley leader and a chance to live in San Francisco in order to work on the start-up project of their dreams, but they have to quit school first. Duration: 02:20 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Baby Babbling Might Lead To Faster Language Development

Baby Babbling Might Lead To Faster Language Development

Newsy (Aug. 29, 2014) A new study suggests babies develop language skills more quickly if their parents imitate the babies' sounds and expressions and talk to them often. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins