Will You Still Feed Me? Self-Perceptions of Aging & Satisfaction with Support from Family & Friends

Negative self-perceptions of aging are associated with poor physical, mental, and social well-being in older adults. A recent study investigated the relationship of such perceptions with satisfaction with social support.

Participants in this study were 121 Hong Kong adults age 60 and better (average 66). First, they performed a sentence unscrambling task. In one group, the sentences contained positive age stereotype words, another group unscrambled negative age stereotype words, and a control group unscrambled sentences containing words unrelated to aging. Next, participants answered questions regarding their health, self-perceptions of aging, health anxiety, and satisfaction with social support from friends and family.

Older adults in the negative stereotypes condition reported more negative self-perceptions of aging than those in the positive or neutral conditions, meaning the experimental manipulation worked. The negative stereotypes condition also reported greater health anxiety, compared to the neutral group. Satisfaction with nonfamily support was similar across groups; however, the negative stereotypes group reported being less satisfied with family support, compared to the neutral and positive groups. Lastly, the researcher tested if greater health anxiety among negative stereotype participants was the reason for reduced satisfaction with family support; however, analyses showed this was not the case.

Most studies look for associations between one’s perceptions of aging and well-being outcomes. By contrast, this study manipulated negative self-perceptions of aging as a way to distinguish groups. The main finding suggests that older adults who have more negative views on aging are less satisfied with social support from one’s family, but this does not extend to non-family support. The researcher suggested that culturally, these Chinese older adults have deeply rooted age stereotype and family values, which could explain the connection between negative age stereotypes and reduced satisfaction with family support (e.g., older adults develop health conditions and their family is expected to care for them). Support from friends may not be as strongly tied with aging, because there isn’t an expectation for them to care for non-family members. Overall, this study adds to the research showing the effects of negative age stereotypes on older adults’ well-being.


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Cheng S-T. The effect of negative aging self-stereotypes on satisfaction with social support. Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences (2020); 75(5), 981-990.

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