Good news for “positive aging.” A study of over 1000 adults with a mean age of 77, recently reported in the American Journal of Psychiatry, found that a resilient attitude – the ability to “bounce back” from setbacks – is likely an essential key to overall successful aging, even moderating the impact of serious physical health problems.
Researchers evaluated both physical health conditions such as disability and chronic disease of participants, and the participants’ subjective assessments of their own degree of successful aging. Participants with poor physical health, but high resilience and no depression, showed “success” similar to those with good physical health but low resilience and possibly mild depression.
While the design of the study does not permit any causal inference, the findings indicate a strong correlation between resilience – generally accepted today as an important component of mental health – and overall successful aging, and suggest that supportive efforts to promote resilience and prevent depression among the elderly are worthwhile. The study is consistent with previous research indicating high levels of life satisfaction among older Americans, despite limitations of declining physical health and disability.