Ageism and health: study shows strong links – Neuroscience News

Summary: Almost all adults between the ages of 50 and 80 report experiencing ageism in their daily lives, however, those with health conditions experience “everyday ageism” at higher rates.

Source: University of Michigan

According to a new study, almost all older people have experienced some form of ageism in their daily lives – whether it’s seeing ageist messages and images on television or on the internet, meeting people who suggest that they are less capable simply because they are older, or believing stereotypes about aging.

However, older adults with more health problems appear more likely to have experienced this type of “everyday ageism”, according to new findings published by a team from the University of Oklahoma, Norman and the University of Oklahoma. ‘University of Michigan. The data, from a survey of more than 2,000 people between the ages of 50 and 80, comes from the National Poll on Healthy Aging.

The higher a person’s score on a daily experiences of ageism scale, the more likely they are to be in poor physical or mental health, to have more chronic health conditions, or to show signs of depression. .

Although the study, published in Open JAMA Networkcannot show cause and effect, the authors note that the links between ageism and health need to be further explored and considered when designing programs to encourage good health and well-being in people elderly.

“These results raise the question of whether aging-related health problems reflect the detrimental influences of ageism and present the possibility that anti-ageism efforts may be a strategy to promote the health and well-being of older adults. “, says first author Julie Ober Allen, Ph.D., MPH, Department of Health and Exercise Sciences, University of Oklahoma, Norman.

Allen worked on the survey while a postdoctoral fellow at the Population Studies Center at UM’s Institute for Social Research.

The team previously published preliminary findings in a report by NPHA, based at the UM Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation and supported by AARP and Michigan Medicine, UM’s academic medical center.

But the new analysis goes further and uses the everyday ageism scale developed by the team. This scale, validated and released last year, calculates a score based on an individual’s responses to 10 questions about their own experiences and beliefs about aging.

In total, 93% of older people surveyed said they regularly experience at least one of the 10 forms of ageism. The most common, experienced by almost 80%, agreed with the statement that ‘having health problems is part of growing old’ – even though 83% of respondents described their own health as good or very good . This type of “internalized” ageism also included agreeing with statements that feeling lonely, or feeling depressed, sad, or worried, is part of aging.

Meanwhile, 65% of seniors said they regularly see, hear or read jokes about seniors or messages that seniors are unattractive or undesirable.

Another class of ageist experiences – which the researchers call interpersonal ageism – was reported as a regular occurrence by 45% of respondents. These included experiences involving another person, where the older person felt they had difficulty using technology, seeing, hearing, understanding, remembering or doing something on its own – or that it wasn’t doing anything worthwhile.

The researchers calculated day-to-day ageism scores for each of the more than 2,000 survey respondents, based on their answers to all of the survey questions.

The overall average score was just over 10. As a group, people aged 65-80 scored over 11, indicating that people aged 50-64 are more affected by ageism .

People who had lower levels of income or education and those who lived in rural areas also had higher average ageism scores than others. Older adults who said they spent four or more hours each day watching television, browsing the Internet or reading magazines had higher scores than those with less exposure to these media.

The researchers then looked at each person’s individual score in light of what they said about their own health, including self-rated physical and mental health, number of chronic health conditions, and reporting of symptoms of depression.

Ageism takes many forms, including internalized stereotypes about what people experience in old age. Credit: University of Michigan

They found a strong link between the highest scores and the four health-related measures. That is, those who reported higher day-to-day ageism scores were more likely to report overall physical health or overall mental health as fair or poor, more chronic health conditions, and symptoms of depression.

Much of this link was related to measures of internalized ageism – the questions that measured how much a person agreed with statements about health problems, loneliness and sadness being part of aging. But experiences with interpersonal forms of ageism were also linked to health-related measures, as were some aspects of ageist messages.

The relationship between experiences of ageism in everyday life and the health of older adults was of particular interest to survey director and lead author Preeti Malani, MD, a professor at Michigan Medicine with a background in elder care.

“The fact that our survey respondents who said they felt the most forms of ageism were also more likely to say their physical or mental health was fair or poor, or that they had a chronic condition such as diabetes or heart disease, is something that needs more consideration,” she says.

To learn more about the National Healthy Aging Poll, visit and sign up to receive new reports as they are released.

The data on which the new study is based is available at

Additional authors: Erica Solway, PhD, MSW, MPH; Matthias Kirch, MS; Dianne Singer, MPH; Jeffrey T. Kullgren, MD, MS, MPH; Valerie Moses, MS

Funding: The study was funded in part by a grant to the UM Center for Population Studies, where Allen was a postdoctoral fellow, from the National Institute on Aging (AG000221). The University of Oklahoma Library Open Access Fund also provided support.

About this health and aging research news

Author: Kara Gavin
Source: University of Michigan
Contact: Kara Gavin – University of Michigan
Image: Image is credited to the University of Michigan

Original research: Free access.
“Experiences of Everyday Ageism and the Health of Older Americans” by Julie Ober Allen et al. Open JAMA Network


Everyday experiences of ageism and the health of older adults in the United States


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Major ageism-related incidents have been shown to be associated with poorer health and well-being in older adults. Less is known about the common types of age-based discrimination, prejudice and stereotyping that older people face in their daily lives, known as everyday ageism.


To examine the prevalence of day-to-day ageism, group differences and disparities, and associations of day-to-day ageism with indicators of poor physical and mental health.

Design, framework and participants

This cross-sectional study was conducted using survey data from the December 2019 National Healthy Aging Survey among a nationally representative household sample of US adults aged 50-80. . Data was analyzed from November 2021 to April 2022.


Experiences of everyday ageism were measured using the new Multidimensional Daily Ageism Scale.

Main results and measures

Fair or poor physical health, number of chronic health conditions, fair or poor mental health and depressive symptoms.


Among 2035 adults aged 50 to 80 (1047 [54.2%] women; 192 Black [10.9%]178 Hispanic [11.4%]and 1546 White [71.1%]; mean [SD] age, 62.6 [8.0] years [weighted statistics]), most participants (1915 adults [93.4%]) reported regularly experiencing 1 or more forms of ageism on a daily basis. Internalized ageism was reported by 1664 adults (81.2%), ageist messages by 1394 adults (65.2%) and interpersonal ageism by 941 adults (44.9%). Mean Daily Ageism Scale scores were higher for several socio-demographic groups, including adults aged 65-80 compared to those aged 50-64 (11.23 [95% CI, 10.80-11.66] against 9.55 [95% CI, 9.26-9.84]) and White (10.43 [95% CI, 10.20-10.67]; P < 0.001) and Hispanic (10.09 [95% CI, 9.31-10.86]; P = 0.04) adults vs black adults (9.23 [95% CI, 8.42-10.03]).

Higher levels of daily ageism were associated with increased risk of all 4 negative physical and mental health outcomes examined in regression analyzes (with odds ratios [ORs] per additional scale point up to 1.20 [95% CI, 1.17-1.23] for depressive symptoms and b = 0.039 [95% CI, 0.029-0.048] for chronic health problems; Pvalues ​​< .001). Internalized ageism was the category associated with the greatest increased risk of poor outcomes on all health measures (with ORs per additional scale point as high as 1.62 [95% CI, 1.49-1.76] for depressive symptoms and b= 0.063 [95% CI, 0.034-0.092] for chronic health problems; Pvalues ​​< .001).

Conclusions and relevance

This study found that everyday ageism was prevalent among American adults between the ages of 50 and 80. These findings suggest that common ageist messages, interactions, and beliefs may be harmful to health, and that multilevel and multisectoral efforts may be needed to reduce day-to-day ageism and promote positive beliefs, practices, and policies. related to aging and the elderly.

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