Negative Feelings About Aging May Affect Memory and Hearing
Old people who worry too much about aging may actually get the worst of it.
A study at the University of Toronto and published in the journal Psychology and Aging found that negative feelings about aging can affect a person’s memory and how well they hear. Those feelings, the researchers concluded, appear to undermine confidence in a person’s ability to hear and remember things.
The study involved 301 participants between the ages of 56 and 96. They completed a series of tests on hearing and memory, and also underwent assessments of how they felt about getting older.
In the memory tests, the participants looked at a list of 15 words on a computer screen and listened to a different list of words on headphones. They were then invited to write down as many words as they could recall. In a second test, they were asked to listen to and repeat a list of five words, and then recall them again after a wait of five minutes. This was a test of both hearing and memory.
To assess participants’ perception about their own hearing and memory abilities, they were asked to agree or disagree with statements like: “I am good at remembering names,” or “I can easily have a conversation on the phone.”
Perceptions on aging were established by asking the people to imagine scenarios like being involved in a car accident where it is not clear which driver is at fault. The participants were asked to rate how worried they would be about being blamed because of their age.
The team found that participants who had negative views about aging – and who believed they had problems with their hearing and memory – also performed less well on the tests.
Said study author Alison Chasteen, “It’s not that negative views on aging cause poor performance in some functions, there is simply a strong correlation between the two when a negative view impacts an individual’s confidence in the ability to function.”