How does ageism negatively affect the health of older people?
Becca Levy, an epidemiology professor at Yale School of Public Health, studied ageism at an individual level but hoped to look beyond individuals to see how ageism impacts seniors’ health at structural levels.
Overall, she found that ageism gradually declines health on 11 measures. Four of those are structural:
• Denial of access to health care
• Exclusion from clinical trials
• Demanding access to medical services because of their age
• Insufficient work opportunities
And seven of them are at the individual level:
• Reduced longevity
• Poor quality of life
• Compromised social connections
• Risky health behaviours
• Mental illness
• Cognitive impairment
• Physical diseases
Many of these issues were observed in an overwhelming majority of the studies. To specify, in 85% of the cases, ageism was connected to seniors being denied access to health care treatments. In 95% of the studies, data showed that ageism affected psychiatric conditions like depression, including a rise in depressive symptoms over time. “We found signs of ageism in every country we looked at, in every year and in every health domain,” says Levy. “The pervasiveness of it I found troubling.”
There was promising news in the findings too. When older people embraced a more positive perception of their age, they experienced less anxiety and suicidal thoughts instead of sinking into negative stereotypes.
The data also suggest that providing education for health care providers about age-based bias could ease some of the adverse health outcomes of ageism. Awareness of age discrimination has increased in recent years, and such attempts could even lead to savings in health costs.
Ageism can have physical and mental effects on seniors, such as a shorter life expectancy and depression. Some seniors are even denied access to healthcare treatment, although they need medical care as they age. Denial access to healthcare leads to discrimination, lower-quality care, and preventable illness and disability.
Nothing positive can ever come out of ageism and can leave a negative mark on seniors, and this fact stands for every social situation. Keep in mind that you can actively fight ageism by becoming knowledgeable about this hateful act.
Ageism is born of things like stereotypes, discrimination, and prejudice. It’s a social virus that manipulates people to make different choices in the same situations when encountering people of different ages. These changes depend on each person’s environment and what ideals have made their way through their lifestyle. As harmless as it might sound, it is not. Ageism directly changes the way we think and how we react. Therefore its effects are not only in our minds but can affect the world outside our minds through our actions.
One of its negative results is how it takes a toll on people’s health. For example, ageism plays a big part in the relationship between a patient and a doctor. Suppose a healthcare provider sees a patient with a mind infected with ageism. In that case, they might count a significant part of the information that the patient gives them as the exaggeration of a kid or the over-thinking of an elder, information that might have been crucial. Of course, it’s not just some kinds of ageism that are bad for our health. All of them are. Because even if the effects aren’t as prominent or instantaneously noticeable, all cases of ageism put stress on their victim, and we all know that too much pressure is not suitable for our hearts.
Seniors may encounter issues like limited job openings, refusal to provide health care, disqualification from clinical trials, and age-related reduction of resources and medical services. These issues may have some serious consequences:
• Various physical conditions
• Incompatibility of social relationships
• Inferior quality of life
• Anxiety and depression
• Lower life expectancy