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Prev Med Rep. 2018 Dec 28;13:196-198. doi: 10.1016/j.pmedr.2018.12.012. eCollection 2019 Mar.

Positive views of aging reduce risk of developing later-life obesity.

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Social and Behavioral Sciences Department, Yale School of Public Health, 60 College Street, PO Box 208034, New Haven, CT 06520-8034, United States.
Department of Internal Medicine, Yale School of Medicine, 333 Cedar Street, PO Box 208034, New Haven, CT 06520-8034, United States.


The obesity epidemic among older adults is expected to continue increasing unless public-health efforts address this age group. Yet, little is known about psychosocial determinants of obesity that relate specifically to older persons. In this study, we investigated for the first time whether self-perceptions of aging (SPA), defined as beliefs about oneself as an older person that are assimilated from society, relate to new cases of obesity. This seemed plausible because older persons who report more-positive SPA tend to engage in more health-promoting behaviors. Our sample consisted of 5702 Americans in the nationally representative Health and Retirement Study who were aged 60 years or older and not obese at baseline. The participants were followed from 2008 to 2014. As predicted, older persons with more-positive SPA, compared to those with more-negative SPA, were significantly less likely to become obese over the next 6 years, after adjusting for relevant covariates. For example, according to our model, a participant with the most-positive SPA score was 27% less likely to become obese than a same-aged peer with an average score on the SPA measure. These findings suggest that interventions aimed at reducing the prevalence of obesity in later life could benefit from targeting SPA.


Ageism; Behaviors; Healthy aging; Obesity; Preventive health; Self perceptions of aging; Stereotyping; Views of aging

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