If you want to live long, think fast, and feel healthy! Two psychological variables, age-related decrease in thinking and processing speed, and perceived health have been linked with mortality risk among middle-age adults and the elderly. The paper is published in Psychological Science.
While every soul shall taste death, humans will persist in finding ways to enhance their lifespan, or at least, not decrease it. With this aim at heart, scientists are forever investigating the factors affecting the length of one’s life. A team of researchers from the University of Oxford, UK, and the University of Geneva, Switzerland, have analysed this topic from a psychological perspective.
Their results indicate that certain psychological factors might be predictors of one’s lifespan to a greater extent than suffering from diseases, and unhealthy lifestyles.
The goal of the researchers was to look into the effects of cognitive, demographic, health, and lifestyle variables on forecasting mortality risk. They wanted to take a different approach from other studies by testing these markers in combination instead of separately. Otherwise, previous research has shown that how long one’s life extends is individually affected by factors like diseases, low socio-economic status, cognitive impairment, and social support.
Data gleaned from over 6,000 adults (from 41- to 96-year-olds) was analysed for cognitive ability in terms of crystallized intelligence, fluid intelligence, verbal memory, visual memory, and processing speed; the change in their performance over the years was recorded. Additionally, the health as well as the subjective reports (pertaining to how they perceived their health, their lifestyles, social interactions) of the participants were evaluated.
Furthermore, the relative pertinence of 65 different variables in forecasting the mortality risk of the participants was assessed.
The findings show that subjective health and thinking speed are the strongest predictors of mortality risk. This means that those participants with better perceived health and only slight changes in processing speed over time were likely to have a lower mortality risk.
The results showing how the two psychological factors are strongly correlated with mortality risk is deemed to be surprising by the researchers because it is otherwise thought that factors of medical or physiological importance are the strongest predictors.
Another correlation found was that women had relatively reduced mortality while smoking tobacco over the years was linked with a greater risk of dying early.
The researchers, therefore, recommend for health professionals to come up with better techniques to evaluate the risk of early death among individuals. For instance, demographic variables, mental abilities, and social support might have to be included in the consideration.