Older Adults Live Longer in Counties With Greater Age Bias

Summary: Contrary to expectations, the researchers found that older people living in countries with higher age bias had better health outcomes than those living in countries with less age bias. The study found that older people tend to live longer in countries with more negative attitudes toward older populations.

Source: UMass

Older adults who live in counties with higher age bias have better health outcomes than those who live in areas with less age bias, according to researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. , who were surprised by the findings.

“The opposite of what we expected emerged,” said Allecia Reid, associate professor of social psychology and senior author of the paper published in the journal Social Science and Medicine.

“Instead of dying earlier in counties with more negative attitudes toward the elderly, we found that older adults lived longer in counties with more negative attitudes toward the elderly.”

Reid and colleagues based their hypothesis on prior research showing that minority groups, such as African Americans and sexual minorities, have worse health outcomes in counties with more negative attitudes. in their group.

“We think, similar to the findings, that in counties with more negative attitudes toward the elderly, we see that they tend to die earlier than counties with more positive attitudes toward the elderly. residents 65 and older,” Reid said.

“Contrary to what we thought, something positive is happening in these senior communities that is helping them live longer, healthier lives.”

Another study that looked at community-level age and the health of the elderly found that clear ageism was associated with positive health behavior in the elderly, while implicit bias is linked to negative health behaviors in older adults.

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Researchers at UMass Amherst analyzed data on more than a million Americans who reported their overt bias and took an implicit bias test to measure their attitudes toward the elderly between 2003 and 2018, as part of Harvard University’s Project Implicit. The researchers looked at the answers to the clearly biased question: How much do you like older versus younger adults?

Choices ranged from 1 (“prefer older people”) to 7 (“prefer younger people”). In addition, individuals’ implicit age bias scores are obtained from the implicit association test. The US county where each participant resides is also available.

Based on that data, the team came up with county-level aggregate estimates of how much residents want seniors. Then they linked that to county death rates for individuals age 65 and older from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention database. Counties with higher apparent age bias had lower mortality, or 87.67 fewer deaths per 100,000 residents. In contrast, implicit bias was not associated with mortality outcomes.

“A clear age-bias-mortality association was seen only in communities with younger populations but did not depend on the ethnic composition of the community,” the paper said.

It shows a happy old man
Researchers are looking at ways older communities can do things to help keep older people healthy. The image is in the public domain

Researchers are looking at ways older communities can do things to help keep older people healthy. They found that more pronounced age bias was also associated with lower death rates among young and middle-aged adults in the counties, suggesting that any health benefits of living in Elderly communities may begin to gather in early life.

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Additionally, “communities with higher clear age bias have higher rates of exercise…, better overall health…, and more days of good health mentally,” the newspaper said.

These findings point to potential pathways through which seniors’ communities can improve health. However, the researchers also noted that factors they did not examine, such as better medical care and more green spaces, could also explain associations of community ageism with better health.

Reid said the surprising findings point to several areas of the examination that could lead to improved longevity for all communities.

“Can we figure out what’s going on in older communities that seems to have the potential to promote better mental health and longer life,” he said. “And if we can point those things out, then that’s a banner for all communities to think about.”

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About this aging and longevity research news

author: Office of the Press
Source: UMass
Contact: Press Office – UMass
Image: The image is in the public domain

Original Research: Open access.
“Age bias at the community level and mortality in older adults” by Alexander J. Kellogg et al. Social Science and Medicine


Community-level age bias and mortality in the elderly


As the number of older adults increases, understanding the health effects of prejudice against the elderly becomes increasingly important. Whether structural forms of age bias predict worse health has received limited attention.


We hypothesized that communities with higher age bias would have higher mortality among residents aged 65 and over. We expected that the association would be unique to age bias, rather than general bias (ie, sexual minority and racial bias), and that the age bias–mortality association would be strongest among whites and younger communities.

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Clear and distinct attitudes towards the elderly (N = 1,001,735), sexual minorities (N= 791,966), and Black Americans (N= 2,255,808) taken from Project Implicit. Post-stratification with respect to US Census demographics was implemented to improve the representativeness of county-level explicit and implicit estimates. The mortality of older adults in the county, estimated cross-sectionally with and longitudinally relative to the bias scores, serves as the result. The models controlled for relevant county-level covariates (eg, median age) and included all US counties (N= 3142).


Contrary to hypotheses but consistent with prior work, overt age bias was cross-sectionally and longitudinally associated with UNDERmortality, over and above covariates and general community bias. The apparent age bias-low mortality association emerged only in young counties but did not depend on county ethnic composition. Implicit age bias was not associated with the results. Post-hoc analyzes supported that age communities may be associated with better health across the lifespan. Apparent age bias predicts lower mortality in young and middle adulthood; better mental health in middle adulthood, but not exercise or self-reported health, mediated the clear age-biased older adult mortality association.


The results highlight the uniqueness of older age in relation to other stigmatized identities. Further examination of the association of community-level age bias with better health may improve longevity for all communities.


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