Some new research finds that long-term well-being in life is more dependent on psychological and social factors than on your physical state. That’s especially important to note because it contrasts with the tendency to assume that physical aging has the greatest impact on your experience of life.
In essence, this study found that your overall conscious experience of life — your state of mind — has greater impact. Think of that as a blend of emotional, mental and social experiences over the course of your lifetime. I would include, as well, the spiritual dimensions of your life. That is, your overall sense of purpose along the way; what it is you’re really living for.
The study, from researchers in Germany, was published in BMC Geriatrics and is described more fully in this press release. According to researcher Karl-Heinz Ludwig, “Ageing itself is not inevitably associated with a decline in mood and quality of life. It is rather the case that psychosocial factors such as depression or anxiety impair subjective well-being.” And, “To date, the impact of emotional stress has barely been investigated."
“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,” said lead author Karoline Lukaschek. “Our study therefore explicitly included anxiety, depression and sleep disorders.”
The research found that depression and anxiety had the strongest effect on well-being. Low income and sleep disorders also had a negative effect. However, poor physical health — including, for example, low physical activity — seemed to have little impact on perceived life satisfaction. Interestingly, among women, living alone also significantly increased the probability of a low sense of well-being.
All of these factors are important, Ludwig said, “…given that we know that high levels of subjective well-being are linked to a lower mortality risk.”
In my view, these findings highlight the need to focus more on what supports a positive experience of life to begin with — in our relationships, emotional attitudes, our societal role and responsibilities, and in our overall sense of what is meaningful as we age.
© 2017 Douglas LaBier