BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES: attitudes toward life and health are emerging as important psychological contributors to health heterogeneity in ageing. We aimed to explore whether different psychological factors were associated with the rate of chronic disease and disability accumulation over time.
DESIGN: population-based cohort study between 2001 and 2010.
SETTING: Swedish National study on aging and care in Kungsholmen.
SUBJECTS: adults aged 60 and older (N = 2293).
METHODS: linear mixed models were employed to study the association of life satisfaction, health outlook, resistance to illness, sickness orientation, and health worry with the rate of accumulation of chronic diseases and impaired basic and instrumental activities of daily living. Models were adjusted for demographic, clinical, social, personality and lifestyle factors. Analyses were repeated after excluding individuals with multimorbidity or disability at baseline.
RESULTS: high life satisfaction and positive health outlook were consistently associated with a lower rate of accumulation and progression of multimorbidity (β -0.064 95% confidence interval [CI] -0.116, -0.011; β -0.065 95% CI -0.121, -0.008, respectively) and disability (β -0.063 95% CI -0.098, -0.028; β -0.042 95% CI -0.079, -0.004, respectively) over time. This was true even for people without multimorbidity or disability at baseline and after adjusting for all covariates.
CONCLUSIONS: positive attitudes toward life in general and health in particular may be especially important in old age, when the cumulative effects of biological and environmental deficits lead to accelerated health decline. These findings should encourage researchers to use measures of psychological well-being to better understand the multifactorial and diverse process of ageing.