Ageism and Acts of Discrimination Take a Toll on Health

By Sutin, Angelina R. | Aging Today, November/December 2014 | Go to article overview

Ageism and Acts of Discrimination Take a Toll on Health


Sutin, Angelina R., Aging Today


Andrea is a 71-year-old professional with an active social life. Recently, she noticed that people have been treating her differently. At her doctor's office, the receptionist raised her voice and spoke slowly to her, despite speaking normally to younger patients. When picking up her car after dinner, the valet looked at her skeptically and asked, "Are you okay to drive at night, Grandma?" At her job, Andrea's boss passed her over for a big project because "it requires learning a new technology."

Andrea and her story may be fictional, but experiences like these aren't uncommon. In national surveys, 30 percent of American adults report they have been treated unfairly in their day-to-day lives on the basis of age. Being treated poorly by others is unpleasant, but do such everyday experiences with discrimination have lasting consequences for the individual's health? We recently addressed this question in a study published in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry (http://goo.gl/9lsWkx; 2014) with data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a large-scale study of Americans older than age 50 and their spouses, funded by the National Institute on Aging (http://goo.gl/AsxOeV).

Effects of Ageism Reflected in Health Measures

In addition to being asked about their experiences with discrimination, the HRS regularly evaluates participants' health. We examined indicators covering three broad areas of health: physical, emotional and cognitive. Physical health was measured with participants' self-evaluation of their health (with the question, "Would you say your health is excellent, very good, good, fair, or poor?") and disease burden, calculated as the sum of diseases from a detailed medical history. For emotional health, participants reported on their overall well-being (measured by agreement with the statement, "I am satisfied with my life.") and feelings of loneliness (measured with questions such as, "How much of the time do you feel left out?"). For cognitive health, participants completed a memory task (the number of words remembered from a 10-item list both immediately and after a five-minute delay) and a mental status assessment. Participants completed these measures twice, once in 2006 and again in 2010.

We tested whether participants who reported experiencing discrimination based upon their age were in worse health across these three domains than those who had not had such experiences. The results were striking. Participants who had experienced age discrimination were physically in poor health, were living with more chronic diseases, were less satisfied with their lives and experienced more loneliness. What is more, over the four-year follow-up period, participants who had experienced age discrimination showed greater declines in their physical and emotional health than those who had not experienced such discrimination.

As people get older, their health tends to get worse and they are more likely to be discriminated against because of their age. As such, it may be the case that the association between age discrimination and health would simply be due to aging. Yet, all of these associations were still apparent when we accounted for this shared relation with chronological age: The experience of such unfair treatment contributes to declines in health over and above the effect of getting older.

Other, More Harmful Effects of Age Discrimination

In addition to age discrimination, participants in the HRS could attribute discriminatory experiences to other personal characteristics-specifically race, ancestry, sex, body weight, physical disability, other aspects of appearance or sexual orientation. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Ageism and Acts of Discrimination Take a Toll on Health
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.