Stay Upbeat, Healthy to Thrive in Senior Years

Occasional drink, decent income also key to happy old age, study finds

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THURSDAY, Nov. 6, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- Want to enjoy your golden years to the fullest?

Then have a positive outlook, keep stress low, don't smoke, but have a drink now and then. Oh, also make at least $30,000 a year and have no chronic health issues.

That's the magic formula to thriving in old age, according to a study in the October issue of the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences. Unfortunately, few seem to follow it.

The findings come from a decade-long survey of 2,432 older Canadians about their quality of life, conducted by researchers from Portland State University, the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, Oregon Health & Science University, and Statistics Canada. Those who had excellent health over an entire 10 years were considered "thrivers."

"Many of these factors can be modified when you are young or middle-aged," study co-author David Feeny, a senior investigator at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, said in a news release issued by his organization. "While these findings may seem like common sense, now we have evidence about which factors contribute to exceptional health during retirement years."

By the end of the 10 years included in the study, only 8 percent of the respondents were considered thrivers. Meanwhile, 47 percent were considered as not having a high quality of life or excellent health. Thirty-six percent had died, and 9 percent were institutionalized.

"Even though the study was conducted in Canada, the findings are certainly applicable to the United States and other industrialized nations," study co-author Dr. Bentson McFarland, a professor of psychiatry, public health and preventive medicine at Oregon Health & Science University, said in the same news release. "Our population here in the United States is similar demographically to Canada's, and both health care systems rely on the same underlying technologies."

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about healthy aging.

SOURCE: Kaiser Permanente Research, news release, Oct. 27, 2008

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