As research highlights the fact that an astonishing 98% of age-related references on Facebook are negative, studies have for the first time provided a link between negative stereotypes and dementia.

Age-related disease is affected by cultural perceptions of ageing

A study by Yale School of Public Health in the United States shows that age-related disease is affected by social and cultural norms. People who are conditioned to believe that their physical and mental abilities decline with age do indeed tend to experience that decline. The stress of holding such negative thoughts can actually alter the physical make-up of the brain, and may trigger dementia. The researchers believe that this could go some way to explain why there is such a difference in levels of dementia between the West, and Eastern cultures where old age is venerated.

The United States has a rate of dementia five times higher than India. Diet has long been suggested as an explanation for this, and this may well play a part, but the fact that older people are treated with great respect in India could well also be an important factor.

Negative beliefs about ageing lead to a higher prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease

In order to test the link between negative stereotypes and dementia, researchers looked at 158 people with an average age of 68, over a ten year period. They were questioned on attitudes to ageing, and asked to say to what extent they agreed with negative statements such as “old people are absent-minded”.…

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