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Growing old or overweight `does not significantly impact happiness`

Washington, Fri, 09 Mar 2012 ANI

Washington, Mar 9 (ANI): Growing older and being overweight are not necessarily associated with a decrease in mental well-being, a new study has claimed.


The cross-cultural study, led by researchers from Warwick Medical School at the University of Warwick, looked at the quality of life and health status in the US and the UK.


It analysed lifestyle and health patterns in more than 10,000 people in both countries and their links to participants' mental and physical quality of life and health status.


Quality of life was evaluated using a measure, which takes in eight different factors including perception of general health, pain, social functioning and mental health.


The researchers found that people reported better mental quality of life as they age, despite a decrease in physical quality of life.


This is in line with previous research by Andrew Oswald, also at the University of Warwick, which suggests that happiness levels follow a U-shape curve with their lowest point in the mid-40s after which they rise as people move into older age.


Supportive results were found in this cross-cultural comparison study in the UK and US - two countries, which have different welfare and health-care systems, factors which could impact on people's quality of life.


The researchers also found that being overweight or obese did not have a significant impact on mental well-being levels, with people with a BMI of more than 30 showing similar mental quality of life levels to those considered to be a healthy weight.


For women in the US, low levels of physical exercise did not appear to impact on their mental well-being. This was not the case for men, where limited physical exercise had a significant adverse impact on their mental quality of life.


"It's obvious that people's physical quality of life deteriorates as they age, but what is interesting is that their mental well-being doesn't also deteriorate - in fact it increases," Saverio Stranges, who led the study with Kandala Ngianga-Bakwin, said.


"We suggest that this could be due to better coping abilities, an interpretation supported by previous research showing older people tend to have internal mechanisms to deal better with hardship or negative circumstances than those who are younger.


"It could also be due to a lowering of expectations from life, with older people less likely to put pressure on themselves in the personal and professional spheres.


"With regard to our findings on excess body weight and its lack of significant impact on mental-wellbeing - this has been reported in previous research, i.e. the so-called "jolly fat" hypothesis, although not consistently," Stranges added.


The study has been published in the European Journal of Epidemiology. (ANI)


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