Research shows that older adults who feel they have greater control over their lives tend to feel younger. A recent study sought to understand how daily fluctuations in control beliefs relate to subjective age.
Participants were part of a larger study in which subjects completed daily online surveys. Younger (107 individuals ages 18-36) and older (116 individuals ages 60-90) adults were recruited for participation. Older adults were recruited using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, an online forum that can be used to recruit workers and research participants, while younger adults were recruited from college psychology courses. Participants completed online surveys over a period of nine days. Survey questions assessed daily control, daily subjective age, daily physical health symptoms, and daily stressors. Daily control was measured through eight items ascertaining participant agreement with statements about their ability to influence events in their lives (e.g., “In the past 24 hours, I had quite a bit of influence on the degree to which I could be involved in activities”). Subjective age was measured through the question “How old do you feel today?”
The research showed that daily control was associated with younger subjective age for older adults, but not for younger adults. Another interesting finding was that stressors and physical health symptoms were not related to subjective age for older adults. However, younger adults with more stressor exposure on a given day felt older, as well as when they experienced a day with more physical health symptoms. Importantly, the results indicate that both beliefs about control and age can change daily, which means that these beliefs also may be changed through an intervention. This is important because both feelings of control and feeling younger are associated with positive outcomes among middle and older aged adults. For example, younger perceived age is associated with longer life expectancy and good mental health. Future research with a longitudinal design should be conducted to confirm study findings.
Want to keep up with recent research that’s relevant to aging services? Use the form below to subscribe to our monthly InvestigAge email.