New research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association examined the prevalence of everyday ageism, demonstrating that exposures were "associated with multiple indicators of poor mental and physical health." The study employed a newly developed multidimensional "Everyday Ageism Scale" to measure exposures.
Among 2,035 adults ranging in age from 50 to 80 years old, most respondents in the study (93.4 percent) reported regularly experiencing one or more forms of everyday ageism. Internalized ageism was reported by 81.2 percent of respondents, ageist messages by 65.2 percent of respondents, and interpersonal ageism by 44.9 percent of respondents. Mean Everyday Ageism Scale scores were higher for several sociodemographic groups. For example, ages 65 to 80 experienced higher exposures than ages 50 to 64, women experienced higher exposures than men, and White and Hispanic adult respondents experienced higher exposures than Black adult respondents.
The study showed that everyday ageism was associated with poor physical and health across four outcomes examined: Fair or poor physical health, Chronic health conditions, Fair or poor mental health and Depressive symptoms. Odds of negative health outcomes increased and the associated number of chronic health conditions also increased. The researchers stated:
"Everyday ageism may affect health outcomes via multiple pathways. Ageism may hamper quality of older adults' interactions with health care clinicians. Ageist cues, beliefs and interpersonal interactions may serve as stereotype threats, primes for stereotype embodiment, and models of normative expectations for older adults, all of which have been associated with poor health outcomes. Accordingly, everyday ageism may be a chronic stressor in the lives of older adults. ... Older adults with poor health may experience more ageist messages and discrimination (and discrimination based on health and disability) and personally relevant evidence supporting negative beliefs associated age with health."
While major incidents of ageism have been shown to be associated with poorer health and well-being among older adults, this study is unique in its focus on routine types of age-based discrimination, prejudice, and stereotyping that older adults encounter in their day-to-day lives, known as everyday ageism.
We should all be vigilant in recognizing all forms of ageism, whether external or internal. As we age, we should speak up when we are confronted with ageist attitudes, not practice ageism toward others and not beat ourselves up for being old. As this study indicates, everyday ageism in all of these ways can negatively affect our physical and mental health.
If you are interested in the full report of this study, click on the PDF link below.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio: https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-in-black-suit-covering-his-face-3831634/