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One Spouse’s View of Aging May Sway the Other’s Health

Elderly people can expect their health to decline—as well as that of their spouse—when their self-perceptions about aging become negative, a new study suggests. The study finds that health effects differ by gender among elderly couples. A husband’s self-perceptions about aging are associated with his wife’s depressive symptoms, whereas a wife’s views correlate with her husband’s physical disability, functional limitations, and chronic diseases, the findings indicate. Previous research has focused on how individuals’ aging self-perceptions affected them, but not the detrimental spillover effects on their spouses. In general, negative aging beliefs among the elderly can become a self-fulfilling prophecy affecting psychological, cognitive, and behavioral processes, the researchers said. “As a result, these beliefs may become a reality,” said study coauthor Lydia Li, professor of social work at the University of Michigan. The researchers drew data from nearly 6,000 individuals over age 50 and their spouses from the Health and Retirement Survey, a …