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"We found that people in the study who had more positive attitudes toward aging were more resilient in response to stress -- meaning that there wasn't a significant increase in negative emotions," study author Jennifer Bellingtier, a Ph.D. student at North Carolina State University, said in a university news release.
"Meanwhile, study participants with more negative attitudes toward aging showed a sharp increase in negative emotional affect on stressful days," she added.
The study included 43 people, aged 60 to 96. The participants were asked how they felt about aging and then completed a daily questionnaire for eight straight days. The questionnaire asked about levels of stress, fear, irritability or distress.
According to study senior author Shevaun Neupert, "This tells us that the way we think about aging has very real consequences for how we respond to difficult situations when we're older. That affects our quality of life and may also have health ramifications." Neupert is an associate professor of psychology at the university.
"For example," she explained, "more adverse emotional responses to stress have been associated with increased cardiovascular health risks."
Bellingtier said the findings are likely applicable to other Americans. But it's not clear if the findings would be relevant in other cultures.
"Attitudes toward aging vary widely across cultures, and more work would need to be done to determine the importance of aging attitudes in other settings," she said.
The findings were published online Aug. 3 in the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences.
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SOURCE: North Carolina State University, news release, Aug. 3, 2016