emotional well-being

Interacting with more people is shown to keep older adults more active

February 20, 2019

Science Daily/University of Texas at Austin

Researchers have found that older adults who spend more time interacting with a wide range of people were more likely to be physically active and had greater emotional well-being.

 

It's been said that variety is the spice of life, and now scientists say variety in your social circle may help you live longer. Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have found that older adults who spend more time interacting with a wide range of people were more likely to be physically active and had greater emotional well-being.

 

In a paper out Feb. 20 in the Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, researchers found that study participants who interacted more with family members and close friends, as well as acquaintances, casual friends, service providers and strangers were more likely to have higher levels of physical activity, less time spent sitting or lying around, greater positive moods and fewer negative feelings. It is the first study to link social engagement with physical activity throughout the day.

 

"Adults often grow less physically active and more sedentary as they age, and these behaviors pose a risk factor for disease and death," said Karen Fingerman, a professor of human development and family sciences at UT Austin and the director of the university's new Texas Aging & Longevity Center. "It is difficult to convince people to go to the gym or commit to work out on a regular basis. But they may be willing to reach out to acquaintances, attend an organized group event, or talk to the barrista who serves them at their favorite coffee shop. Socializing in these contexts also can increase physical activity and diverse behaviors in ways that benefit health without necessarily working up a sweat."

 

The researchers asked study participants about their activities and social encounters every three hours for about a week. Participants also wore electronic devices to monitor their physical activity. Fingerman and the team observed that during the three-hour periods when participants were engaging with a greater variety of social partners, they reported engaging in a greater variety of activities such as leaving the house, walking, talking with others, or shopping. They also engaged in more objectively measured physical activity, and less time being sedentary.

 

Previous studies have shown that close social ties, like family and close friends, can be beneficial to older adults by providing a buffer against stress and improving emotional well-being. Researchers had not examined physical activity or the benefits of more peripheral social ties.

 

This study showed those acquaintances or peripheral ties may encourage older adults to be more physically active, a key factor that has been shown to contribute to physical and emotional health, as well as cognitive ability.

 

"Older adults may be able to be more sedentary with their close friends and family -- sitting and watching TV or otherwise lounging at home," Fingerman said. "But to engage with acquaintances, older adults must leave the house, or at least get up out of their chair to answer the door."

 

The study included more than 300 adults over 65 years old who lived in the Austin metro area and controlled for factors such as age, race, gender, marital status, education and ethnicity.

 

"Prior research on aging has focused almost entirely on the benefits of social connection with close social ties such as a spouse or an adult child," said co-author Debra Umberson, sociology professor and director of UT Austin's Population Research Center. "This new research relies on truly novel data that capture both the amount and quality of contact with all types of people that the elderly encounter throughout the day -- and the results show us that these routine encounters have important benefits for activity levels and psychological well-being. This new information suggests the importance of policies and programs that support and promote routine and informal social participation."

 

The research was funded by the National Institute on Aging and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Graduate student Meng Huo of The University of Texas at Austin and Susan T. Charles professor of psychology of the University of California at Irvine contributed to the study.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/02/190220074610.htm

Live better with attainable goals

February 15, 2019

Science Daily/University of Basel

Those who set realistic goals can hope for a higher level of well-being. The key for later satisfaction is whether the life goals are seen as attainable and what they mean to the person, as psychologists report in a study with over 970 participants.

 

Wealth, community, health, meaningful work: life goals express a person's character, as they determine behavior and the compass by which people are guided. It can therefore be assumed that goals can contribute substantially to how satisfied people are in life -- or how dissatisfied if important goals are blocked and cannot be achieved.

 

A team of psychologists from the University of Basel conducted a detailed examination on how life goals are embedded in people's lives across adult; the results are now published in the European Journal of Personality. The researchers used data from 973 people between 18 and 92 years old living in German-speaking parts of Switzerland; more than half of the participants were surveyed again after two and four years. The participants had to assess the importance and the perceived attainability of life goals in ten areas -- health, community, personal growth, social relationships, fame, image, wealth, family, responsibility/care for younger generations, and work -- using a four-point scale.

 

Life goals with predictive power

 

The findings of the study revealed that perceiving one's personal goals as attainable is an indicator for later cognitive and affective well-being. This implies that people are most satisfied if they have a feeling of control and attainability. Interestingly, the importance of the goal was less relevant for later well-being than expected.

 

Life goals also hold predictive power for specific domains: Participants who set social-relation goals or health goals were more satisfied with their social relationships or their own health. The link between life goals and subsequent well-being appeared to be relatively independent of the age of the participants.

 

Younger people want status, older people want social engagement

 

What are the goals that people value the most in a respective age period? The goals that people value in a particular life stage depend on the development tasks that are present at this stage: the younger the participants were, the more they rated personal-growth, status, work and social-relation goals as important. The older the participants were, the more they rated social engagement and health as important.

 

"Many of our results confirmed theoretical assumptions from developmental psychology," says lead author and PhD student Janina Bühler from the University of Basel's Faculty of Psychology. Life goals were strongly determined by age: "If we examine, however, whether these goals contribute to well-being, age appears less relevant." Hence, adults, whether old or young, are able to balance the importance and attainability of their goals.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/02/190215092845.htm

Diet has bigger impact on emotional well-being in women than in men

August 27, 2018

Science Daily/Binghamton University

Women may need a more nutrient-rich diet to support a positive emotional well-being, according to new research.

 

Mounting evidence suggests that anatomical and functional differences in men's and women's brain dictate susceptibility to mental disease. However, little is known about the role of dietary patterns in gender-specific psychological wellbeing. A team of researchers led by Lina Begdache, assistant professor of health and wellness studies at Binghamton University, conducted an anonymous survey of 563 participants (48 percent men and 52 percent women) through social media to investigate this issue. Begdache and her team found that men are more likely to experience mental well-being until nutritional deficiencies arise. Women, however, are less likely to experience mental well-being until a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle are followed.

 

According to Begdache, these results may explain reports from previous studies that show that women are at a greater risk for mental distress when compared to men, and emphasize the role of a nutrient-dense diet in mental wellbeing.

 

"The biggest takeaway is that women may need a larger spectrum of nutrients to support mood, compared to men," said Begdache. "These findings may explain the reason why women are twice more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety and depression and suffer from longer episodes, compared to men. Today's diet is high in energy but poor in key nutrients that support brain anatomy and functionality."

 

Evidence suggests that our ancestors' diet, which was a high-energy-nutrient-dense diet, contributed significantly to brain volumes and cognitive evolution of humankind, said Begdache.

 

"Males and females had different physical and emotional responsibilities that may have necessitated different energy requirements and food preference," she said. "Thus, gender-based differential food and energy intake may explain the differential brain volumes and connectivity between females and males. Therefore, a potential mismatch is happening between our contemporary diet and the evolved human brain which is disturbing the normal functionality of certain systems in the brain.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/08/180827080914.htm

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