Aging, Health Behaviors, and Health Outcomes

By K. Warner Schaie; Dan Blazer et al. | Go to book overview

of social opportunities and barriers associated with those immutable ascribed statuses. Some will argue that we cannot change such variables. But, in fact, all of these social conditions and contexts have been altered significantly in the past. And three or four decades ago, many were equally skeptical that we could reduce smoking, change diet and exercise patterns or fluoridate water supplies, yet we have.

Increased attention to those broader social factors in health will also help us to address problems in our current understanding of psychosocial factors in health. A number of papers and discussions note that we often fail to understand how various psychosocial risk factors (e.g., health behaviors, social relationships and supports, efficacy or control) relate to each other. Age, race, gender and SES importantly determine or modify the impacts of all of these variables. Hence, consideration of these broader social forces and contexts will force us to focus more on interrelationships among sets of psychosocial risk factors that are currently studied too much in isolation from each other.

In summary, we are at an important juncture in the study of psychosocial factors in aging and health. The relevance of multiple psychosocial variables to processes of aging and health is now undeniable. Yet we also need to understand better how these risk factors relate both to more microscopic biomedical factors and more macroscopic social factors in health and aging. It is only because we have come such a long way in this area in the past several decades, that we can now see that we still have far to go in the coming decades. The chapters and discussions in this conference and volume appropriately reflect the past progress, the current problems, and the future promise of efforts to understand the role of psychosocial factors in aging and health.


ACKNOWLEDGMENT

Preparation of this chapter has been partially supported by the National Institute of Aging (Grant #P01AG05561). I am indebted to Marie Klatt for preparing the manuscript.


REFERENCES

Gerontologica Perspecta. ( 1987). "Issue on the compression of morbidity", 1, 3-66.

Goldman L., & Cook E. F. ( 1984). "The decline in ischemic heart disease: An analysis of the comparative effects of medical interventions and changes in lifestyle". Annals of Internal Medicine, 101, 825-836.

House J. S., Landis K., & Umberson D. ( 1988). "Social relationships and health". Science, 241, 540-545.

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