How does mindset affect aging?

Can your mindset affect the way you aging? 

The average life expectancy for most people In industrialized societies has risen steadily over the course of the last century.

And this upward trend is likely to continue, albeit with some fits and starts along the way as pandemics and other medical crises occur.

In an intriguing study published in 2017, researchers examined the role of the failure mindset in human longevity.

Failure mindset refers to that sense of losing control over major aspects of one’s life, including health.

When people believe they can control what happens to them, they develop a more optimistic outlook, which impacts their attitude towards life in general.

Conversely, losing that sense of control means no longer engaging in active coping and even developing a sense of learned helplessness, causing them to stop trying to avoid adverse outcomes.

The authors used textual analysis to examine books from Project Gutenberg and archived speeches of prominent Americans to test the role of positive and negative mindsets on life expectancy.

Using computerized text analysis, the authors examined each of the selected texts for how often authors used failure-related words (e.g., “fail,” “helpless,” “unsuccessful,” etc.) while writing.


When comparing the relative lifespans of each author, results showed that authors using a higher percentage of failure-related words in their writing had shorter lifespans than authors using fewer such words.

Even when controlling for birth year and other demographic factors linked to longevity, this relationship held up.

To extend these results further, the researchers also examined the Wikipedia biographies of each author to determine whether they had poor health habits that limited their mortality.

If You Believe You Will Grow Old and Frail, You Will Grow Old and Frail

Overall, the results indicate that failure-oriented people are more likely to make poor health choices, presumably due to a lack of proper motivation.

When looking at the cause of death for each author, results also showed a strong link between failure motivation and whether or not the death could be considered preventable.

As we can see from this study and many other similar studies, people who expect failure are generally less effective in maintaining good health habits.

On the other hand, a positive outlook can play a powerful role in our health decisions.

Healthy behaviors include regular exercise, good nutrition, an active lifestyle, and full compliance with medical advice., all of which require strong motivation to ensure we stay the course.

A positive mindset also makes us avoid unhealthy activities such as drinking, smoking,  and prolonged inactivity.

People who develop a failure mindset, whether due to health setbacks, hopelessness, or a general sense of fatalism,  often make lifestyle decisions that can undermine their overall health and, as a result, their longevity.

Certainly, ample evidence shows that maintaining a healthy lifestyle can keep us mentally and physically active for as long as possible.

 A 2004 study looking at annual deaths in the United States indicates that half of all deaths each year can be attributed to behavioral factors such as tobacco and alcohol use and poor nutrition and physical activity.

On the other hand, people with a fatalistic or pessimistic attitude who refuse to follow a healthy lifestyle  live shorter lives.


But why do so many people develop the kind of failure mindset that can compromise our health and shorten our life expectancy?

Well, there can be many reasons, and they often depend on our expectations about how long we can expect to live.

But you aren’t your parents or grandparents and medical science has significantly boosted life expectancy in recent decades.

In fact, we have been seeing a steady rise in life expectancy over the past 200 years.

This rise has been largely driven by advances in sanitation as well as the development of vaccines and antibiotics.

And more recent medical advancements offer the prospect of even longer lifespans in the foreseeable future.

Even now, though, far too many people have certain ingrained stereotypes about what it means to grow older, often based on their own experiences with parents or grandparents.

We also form expectations on how long we will live based on national averages and even actuarial life tables (which are often conservative in nature and fail to take medical advances into consideration.)

Your Quality of Life Today is Better Than the Life of Queen of England 100 Years Ago

You also need to recognize that the quality of life is much better than what was common 50 or 100 years ago.

Not only has global poverty dropped sharply over the last century, but luxuries once reserved for the very rich are now more widely available and affordable than ever.

As a result, even people in middle class households now enjoy routine amenities that the Queen of England could only have dreamed of 100 years ago.

Whether it be air conditioning, refrigeration, fresh fruit from all over the world, Netflix, video games , or real-time news,  life has been thoroughly enriched as a result.

And just imagine what the next few decades might bring!


So how can we fight the failure mindset and prepare for a longer and more productive lifespan?

First of all, you need to start thinking about your own aging and recognize that  we all age at different rates, whether mentally or physically.

We can even track the rate of our mental  physiological aging using various AI measures.

For that matter, learning about the latest advances in longevity medicine is easier than ever.

Read over some of my previous posts here on Forbes and learn about the different ways that you can stay younger and more creative with time.

You also read about the role that psychological aging plays in our daily lives and how learning to think younger can have major benefits for mental and physical health.

You can also read different interviews with prominent researchers and futurists offering a unique perspective on the future of aging research and what it will mean for society.

But in a real sense, this is only just the beginning.

The anti-aging market is already poised to reach nearly $300 billion by 2024 and will grow far higher in the decades that follow.

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