How your attitude about aging could prolong your life

Eliza Anderson, Deseret News
Eliza Anderson, Deseret News

This week’s family-friendly new studies include a look at the ways that a positive attitude is linked to longevity. And there’s also a caution about toxic “forever” chemicals and how little people know about them, which is very risky.

Aging well mindset and living longer

People who have a positive view of aging may live longer, according to new research published in the journal The Gerontologist. The study found a significant association between how successfully adults ages 50-74 felt they were aging and their risk of dying within nine years.

Positive assessment of how one is aging is called subjective successful aging. The research team, led by Rachel Pruchno, professor of medicine at the New Jersey Institute for Successful Aging at Rowan-Virtua School of Osteopathic Medicine, looked at data gathered between 2006 and 2008 from 5,483 people who lived in New Jersey. Besides the subjective view of aging, they examined demographic, health and lifestyle factors.

Even accounting for known mortality risk factors, they found that someone with a positive view of aging had a lower risk of mortality, each one-point rise in the positive view decreasing the risk of mortality by 3%. People who scored low had a 45% chance of dying within nine years, while those with high scores had less than 10% chance of dying in that time frame, according to a news release on the study.

“My research provides a new and helpful way to understand the link between how people feel about their aging experience and mortality,” Pruchno said in the release. “The next important question my team is tackling is learning what changes people can make in their lives to ensure that they will age successfully.”

Most Americans don’t know risks of ‘forever chemicals’

Ask most Americans about perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, the so-called “forever chemicals,” and they don’t seem to know what you’re talking about.

That’s what Texas A&M AgriLife scientists found when they did the first generalized U.S. study on public awareness of PFAS — a category that includes thousands of manufactured chemicals and is “an emerging concern” to environmental and human health, according to an article in the university’s AgriLife Today.

Breakdown of the chemicals is very hard because of the way their carbon and fluorine molecules bond, leading to the moniker “forever chemicals.”

“This is the first survey of its kind, and what we found is that the vast majority of people do not have a clear understanding of PFAS,” said Texas Water Resources Institute’s interim director Allen Berthold, lead author of the study, which was published in the journal PLOS One.

The researchers wrote that since the late 1940s, PFAS have been manufactured and used in a wide range of industrial processes and consumer products, including “food packaging, non-stick cookware, household upholstery, personal care products and cleaning supplies. PFAS are also an integral component of fire extinguishing foams.” They said PFAS compounds have been found in food and water supplies.


The article said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in March proposed a national standard for PFAS in drinking water. But while communities are working to make sure their water supplies are safe, “most consumers are completely unaware there is an issue with these chemicals.”

“When I ask an audience at a public presentation if they’ve ever heard of PFAS, usually only a few people from a room of 100 will say yes, and that’s fairly consistent with these survey results,” Berthold said.

The researchers said that 45% of respondents had never heard of PFAS and didn’t know what they are, while just under 32% had heard of them but didn’t know what they are.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says all the health risks may not yet be known, but those that are known include increased cholesterol levels, a decreased response to vaccines in children, changes in liver enzymes, increased risk of pre-eclampsia or high blood pressure in pregnant women, small decreases in infant birth weights and increased risk of kidney or testicular cancer.

The EPA adds to the list, citing risk of developmental delays in children including accelerated puberty and bone variations, or behavioral changes, reduced immune system response and the potential to interfere with natural hormones.

The university offers an introduction to PFAS basics at