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The Power of Positive

People who have a positive view of old age are 44 per cent less likely to develop dementia – even if you carry a gene that put you at a higher risk for it.

New research released this week shows that older adults who have acquired positive beliefs about old age from their surrounding culture are less likely to develop dementia.

The research, led by Becca Levy from the Yale School of Public Health, investigated whether culture-based age beliefs influence the risk of developing dementia among older people, including those who carry the E4 variant of the gene APOE, which has been identified as a high risk factor for dementia. The researchers studied a group of 4,765 people, with an average age of 72 years, who were free of dementia at the start of the study. Twenty-six per cent of the participants in the study were carriers of APOE E4.

Over the four-year study duration, the researchers found that APOE E4 carriers with positive beliefs about ageing had a 2.7 per cent risk of developing dementia, compared to a 6.1 per cent risk for those with negative beliefs about ageing. “We found that positive age beliefs can reduce the risk of one of the most established genetic risk factors of dementia,” said lead author Becca Levy. “This makes a case for implementing a public health campaign against ageism and negative age beliefs.”

In 2011, just over 48,000 New Zealanders had dementia. By 2026, it is estimated that over 78,000 New Zealanders will have dementia. This is an increase of over 60 percent. It is estimated that in 2011 the total financial cost of dementia in New Zealand was $954.8 million. This figure includes the costs of residential care, pharmaceuticals, and general practitioner visits, as well as productivity loss and the loss of healthy years of life. There is generally a negative social stigma associated with dementia. Many people are afraid of being diagnosed with dementia because they believe that nothing can be done to help them once they have been diagnosed.

The New Zealand Government’s 2014 report on positive ageing talked about progressing the Business of Ageing project and developing age-friendly cities as means of encouraging better attitudes towards ageing.Changing our perceptions of ageing can not only save money, it could also prevent people developing this debilitating disease.

Maybe having that “glass half full” attitude is good for something after all!

About Eve Williams

Eve Williams
Eve Williams is the Production and Social Media Administrator for Eldernet. She is currently studying towards her Masters at the University of Canterbury. She has a passion for learning new things.

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