Quality of life can improve in old age, claim researchers

Increasing age does not necessarily cause a reduction in the quality of life, and in some cases, can even improve it.

Research published online this month in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, describes how researchers looked at indicators of the quality of life, and found that in England it is above average between the ages of 50 and 84, and in some cases increases compared with earlier years.

The researchers from Imperial College London, Karolinska Instituet, Stockholm and City University, London studied the effect of health factors such as long standing illness, social factors like trusting relationships and socio-economic factors on the quality of life.

Dr Gopal Netuveli from Imperial College London, and lead researcher, said: "Although many worry that old age and retirement could be a time of hardship, this study shows that for many their quality of life actually improves as they get older. In particular, social engagement such as volunteering can significantly improve quality of life, even in very old age."

The researchers found that factors such as a long standing illness, difficulties in moving about and carrying on with every day activities, depression or financial difficulties can all reduce the quality of life.

Factors such as trusting relationships with friends and family, frequent contact with friends and living in a good, safe neighbourhood were all found to increase the quality of life.

The team looked at data from 12,234 individuals aged 50 or over living in 2002 from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing.

Professor David Blane, from Imperial College London and senior researcher, said: "An increasingly ageing population has raised the possibility of a 'long and morbid winter' for many old people, and a potential problem for national economies with more people to support than there are people to work.

"However this study indicates that many of the problems associated with old age may be compressed to the last few years and people are able to lead a fulfilling life after retirement."

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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