The key to a longer life could be the way a person perceives their aging experience, according to a new study led by Rachel Pruchno, Ph.D., professor of medicine at the New Jersey Institute for Successful Aging at Rowan-Virtua School of Osteopathic Medicine. Recently published by the scientific journal, The Gerontologist, the study found a significant association between the subjective successful aging (SSA) of adults ages 50-74 and their risk for mortality within nine years.

Pruchno and her team analyzed data collected between 2006 and 2008 from 5,483 people aged 50-74 living in New Jersey. In addition to demographic, health and lifestyle variables, they measured SSA using a valid, reliable measure. 

The team found that SSA had a significant association with mortality within nine years, accounting for known mortality risk factors. Each one-point rise in SSA decreased the risk of mortality by 3 percent. People with low SSA scores (between zero and five), had a 45 percent chance of dying within nine years, while those with high scores (between 25 and 30) had less than a 10 percent chance of dying.

These findings are important because they show that, after accounting for known risk factors for mortality, perceptions are powerful predictors. This research highlights the value of measuring how people feel about their aging experience, because it can be used as a tool to identify people who would benefit from interventions.  

“My research provides a new and helpful way to understand the link between how people feel about their aging experience and mortality,” said Pruchno. “The next important question my team is tackling is learning what changes people can make in their lives to ensure that they will age successfully.”  

About Rowan University: Rowan University is ranked in the top 100 public research institutions in the nation. During the past decade, the University has rapidly transformed into a doctoral, research-intensive university with more than 23,000 students, program offerings on eight campuses and partnerships with health systems throughout South Jersey. Focused on access, quality, affordability and economic development, Rowan is one of only three institutions in the nation that offer both M.D. and D.O. medical degree programs. Its School of Osteopathic Medicine is a national leader among its DO-granting peers with $14.6 million in total annual research funding. Through shared investments in research and education, Rowan University/Rutgers–Camden Joint Health Sciences Center is increasing capacity for “eds and meds” partners to discover and develop medical advancements and further strengthen the region’s research and health care resources. Learn more:

Journal Link: The Gerontologist