New Evidence That Walking Speed of Senior Citizens
is Predictor of How Long They Will Live
New study finds happy seniors more likely to maintain
better physical function
Jan. 21, 2014 A large study of people 60 and
older has found that those who enjoy life are more likely to maintain
better physical function in their daily activities and a faster walking
speed as they age. Previous work by the researchers found these happy
seniors were also most likely to survive for another eight years. This
supports which supports another study suggesting walking speed is a good
predictor of longevity.
The study in 20ll found that how fast senior
citizens walk appears to be a better gage of how long they will live
than trying to do a more complicated analysis using age, sex, chronic
conditions, smoking history, blood pressure, body mass index, and
hospitalization. The researchers found walking gait is especially
accurate for predicting remaining life for those age 75 and older.
report was published January 5 in the Journal of the American Medical
The new study of 3199 men and women aged 60 years
or over living in England looked at the link between positive well-being
and physical well-being, following participants over 8 years. It was
published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal)
Participants were divided into three age
categories: 6069, 7079 and 80 years or over.
Researchers from University College London (UCL),
United Kingdom, assessed participants' enjoyment of life with a
four-point scale, rating the following questions:
"I enjoy the things that I do,"
"I enjoy being in the company of others,"
"On balance, I look back on my life with a sense of happiness" and
"I feel full of energy these days."
Researchers used personal interviews to determine
whether participants had impairments in daily activities such as getting
out of bed, getting dressed, bathing or showering. They gauged walking
speed with a gait test.
"The study shows that older people who are happier
and enjoy life more show slower declines in physical function as they
age," states Dr. Andrew Steptoe, UCL.
"They are less likely to develop impairments in
activities of daily living such as dressing or getting in or out of bed,
and their walking speed declines at a slower rate than those who enjoy
Participants in the 6069-year bracket had higher
levels of well-being as did those with higher socioeconomic status and
education and those who were married and working. Not surprisingly,
people with chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes,
arthritis, stroke and depression had lower levels of enjoyment of life.
People with low well-being were more than three
times as likely as their positive counterparts to develop problems in
their daily physical activities.
"This is not because the happier people are in
better health, or younger, or richer, or have more healthy lifestyles at
the outset, since even when we take these factors into account, the
relationship persists," Steptoe says.
"Our previous work has shown that older people with
greater enjoyment of life are more likely to survive over the next 8
years; what this study shows is that they also keep up better physical
"Our results provide further evidence that
enjoyment of life is relevant to the future disability and mobility of
older people," Steptoe and coauthors conclude. "Efforts to enhance
well-being at older ages may have benefits to society and health care
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