Depression, Anxiety Biggest Risks to Well-Being Later in Life

Depression, Anxiety Biggest Risks to Well-Being Later in Life

It’s called the “age paradox.” Why do some people report high levels of subjective well-being as they age in spite of age-related ailments and the social losses of aging?

“Aging itself is not inevitably associated with a decline in mood and quality of life,” said Professor Karl-Heinz Ladwig, the head of the Mental Health Research Group at the Institute of Epidemiology II, Helmholtz Zentrum München, and a professor of psychosomatic medicine at the TUM University Hospital.

“It is rather the case that psychosocial factors, such as depression or anxiety, impair subjective well-being. And in the case of women, living alone also plays an important role.”

“What made the study particularly interesting was the fact that the impact of stress on emotional well-being has barely been investigated in a broader, non-clinical context,” added Dr. Karoline Lukaschek, an epidemiologist in the Mental Health Research Group and lead author of the paper. “Our study therefore explicitly included anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders.”

For the new study, the research team relied on data derived from about 3,600 participants with an average age of 73 who had taken part in the population-based Cooperative Health Research in the Region of Augsburg (KORA-Age Study).

To ascertain levels of subjective well-being, the scientists used a questionnaire devised by the World Health Organization with a score ranging from zero to 100. For the purpose of analysis, they divided the respondents’ results into two categories: A high score of 50 and above and a low score below 50.

The subsequent evaluation revealed a high level of subjective well-being in the majority — 79 percent — of the respondents. The average values were also above the threshold set by the WHO, the researchers noted.

In the low group, however, there was a conspicuously high number of women: About 24 percent compared to 18 percent for men, the researchers discovered.

In an attempt to uncover the most important causes for subjective well-being, the scientists mainly identified psychosocial factors.

What they found is that depression and anxiety disorders had the strongest effect on well-being. Low income and sleep disorders also had a negative effect.

However, poor physical health seemed to have little impact on perceived life satisfaction, according to researchers.

Among women, living alone also significantly increased the probability of a low sense of well-being, they discovered.

“The findings of the current study clearly demonstrate that appropriate services and interventions can play a major role for older people, especially for older women living on their own,” Ladwig said. “And this is all the more important, given that we know that high levels of subjective well-being are linked to a lower mortality risk.”

The study was published in BMC Geriatrics.

Source: Helmholtz Zentrum München

Posted by Patricia Adams