Staying Alive with Attitude: Beliefs about aging sway seniors' survival

9:59am, July 24, 2002

Small-town America has a life-enhancing lesson for people who are at least 50 years old: Individuals, those in the heartland's middle class, anyway, who have a positive outlook about aging live around 7 years longer than those who take a dim view of their prospects as seniors.

"People who have positive views about themselves as they age somehow cope with society's negative attitudes toward the elderly," says psychologist Becca R. Levy of Yale University. "These individuals' positive self-perceptions also can prolong their lives."

The longevity advantage measured is nothing to sneeze at. It exceeds the 1 to 4 years of added life linked to traits such as having low systolic blood pressure, low cholesterol, moderate body weight, and no history of cigarette smoking.

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