Skip to main content Accessibility help

Attitudes to aging in midlife are related to health conditions and mood

  • Anna M. Thorpe (a1), John F. Pearson (a2), Philip J. Schluter (a3), Janet K. Spittlehouse (a1) and Peter R. Joyce (a1)...



Health is an important aspect of individuals’ lives as they age. The aim of this study was to examine the relationship of sociodemographic factors, diagnosed chronic health conditions, and current depression with attitudes to aging in midlife.


A cross-sectional baseline analysis was conducted on the first 300 participants from the Canterbury Health, Ageing and Life Course study in New Zealand, a stratified randomized community longitudinal study of adults recruited between 49 and 51 years. Attitudes were measured using the Attitudes to Aging Questionnaire (AAQ) and analyzed with a range of prevalent diagnosed chronic conditions, current depression, and sociodemographic variables.


Individuals perceived their physical aging more negatively after a diagnosis of hypertension, arthritis or asthma. Diagnosed lifetime depression and anxiety, and current depression, showed strong relationships with attitudes to aging across domains. After controlling for sociodemographic factors and current depression, individuals with diagnosed hypertension, arthritis, asthma, lifetime depression or anxiety continued to report significantly more negative attitudes to aging. Current depression showed the strongest associations with attitudes to aging and mediated relationships of health on attitudes to aging.


Physical and mental health are related to attitudes to aging. Most chronic conditions examined are significantly associated with attitudes toward aging in the physical change domain. Diagnosed lifetime depression and anxiety, and current depression, are negatively related across attitudinal domains. Individuals can feel positive about aging while experiencing poorer health, but this is more difficult in the presence of low mood.


Corresponding author

Correspondence should be addressed to: Anna Thorpe, Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Otago Christchurch, PO Box 4345, Christchurch 8140, New Zealand. Phone: +64-3-3786400; Fax: +64-3-3786540. Email:


Hide All
Ajzen, I. and Fishbein, M. (1977). Attitude-behavior relations: a theoretical analysis and review of empirical research. Psychological Bulletin, 84, 888918.
Ardagh, M. W. et al. (2011). The initial health-system response to the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, in February, 2011. The Lancet, 379, 21092115. doi:
Bryant, C., Bei, B., Gilson, K., Komiti, A., Jackson, H. and Judd, F. (2012). The relationship between attitudes to aging and physical and mental health in older adults. International Psychogeriatrics, 24, 16741683. doi:10.1017/S1041610212000774.
Chachamovich, E., Fleck, M., Laidlaw, K. and Power, M. (2008). Impact of major depression and subsyndromal symptoms on quality of life and attitudes toward aging in an international sample of older adults. The Gerontologist, 48, 593602. doi: 10.1093/geront/48.5.593.
Demakakos, P., Gjonca, E. and Nazroo, J. (2007). Age identity, age perceptions, and health–evidence from the English Longitudinal Study of ageing. Healthy Aging and Longevity, 1114, 279287. doi: 10.1196/annals.1396.021.
Dolan, P., Peasgood, T. and White, M. (2008). Do we really know what makes us happy? A review of the economic literature on the factors associated with subjective well-being. Journal of Economic Psychology, 29, 94122.
Kalfoss, M. H., Low, G. and Molzahn, A. E. (2010). Reliability and validity of the attitudes to ageing questionnaire for Canadian and Norwegian older adults. Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences, 24, 7585. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6712.2010.00786.x.
Kunzmann, U., Little, T. D. and Smith, J. (2000). Is age-related stability of subjective well-being a paradox? Cross-sectional and longitudinal evidence from the Berlin aging study. Psychology and Aging, 15, 511526.
Kuper, H. and Marmot, M. (2003). Intimations of mortality: perceived age of leaving middle age as a predictor of future health outcomes within the Whitehall II study. Age and Ageing, 32, 178184.
Laidlaw, K., Power, M. J., Schmidt, S. and the WHOQOL-OLD Group. (2007). The attitudes to ageing questionnaire (AAQ): development and psychometric properties. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 22, 367379.
Levy, B. R. and Myers, L. M. (2005). Relationship between respiratory mortality and self-perceptions of aging. Psychology and Health, 20, 553564.
Levy, B. R., Slade, M. D. and Kasl, S. V. (2002). Longitudinal benefit of positive self-perceptions of aging on functional health. The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 57, 409417.
Low, G., Ross, C., Stickland, M., Wilson, D. and Wong, E. (2013). Perspectives of aging among persons living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Western Journal of Nursing Research, 35, 884904.
Lucas-Carrasco, R., Laidlaw, K., Gómez-Benito, J. and Power, M. J. (2013). Reliability and validity of the attitudes to ageing questionnaire (AAQ) in older people in Spain. International Psychogeriatrics, 25, 490499.
Lumley, T. (2010). Survey: analysis of complex survey samples. R package version 3.22–1.
Matthews, R., Lindner, H. and Collins, L. (2007). Attitudes towards ageing: a survey conducted by the Australian psychological society. InPsych: The Bulletin of the Australian Psychological Society, 29, 2225.
Ministry of Health (2008). A Portrait of Health: Key Results of the 2006/07 New Zealand Health Survey. Wellington: Ministry of Health.
Mojon-Azzi, S. and Sousa-Poza, A. (2011). Hypertension and life satisfaction: an analysis using data from the survey of health, ageing and retirement in Europe. Applied Economics Letters, 18, 183187. doi: 10.1080/13504850903508291.
Pruchno, R. A., Wilson-Genderson, M., Rose, M. and Cartwright, F. (2010). Successful aging: early influences and contemporary characteristics. Gerontologist, 50, 821833. doi:10.1093/geront/gnq041.
Quinn, K. M., Laidlaw, K. and Murray, L. K. (2009). Older peoples’ attitudes to mental illness. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, 16, 3345.
Schluter, P. J. et al. (2013). Canterbury health, ageing and life course (CHALICE) study: rationale, design and methodology. New Zealand Medical Journal, 126, 115.
Sheehan, D. V. et al. (1998). The mini-international neuropsychiatric interview (M.I.N.I.): the development and validation of a structured diagnostic psychiatric interview for DSM-IV and ICD-10. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 59, 2233.
Shenkin, S. D., Laidlaw, K., Allerhand, M., Mead, G. E., Starr, J. M. and Deary, I. J. (2014). Life course influences of physical and cognitive function and personality on attitudes to aging in the Lothian birth cohort 1936. International Psychogeriatrics, 114. doi: 10.1017/S1041610214000301.
Spittlehouse, J. K., Joyce, P. R., Vierck, E., Schluter, P. J. and Pearson, J. F. (2014). Ongoing adverse mental health impact of the earthquake sequence in Christchurch, New Zealand. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 48, 756763.
Statistics New Zealand (2011). Estimating Local Populations After the 2010/11 Canterbury Earthquakes. Wellington: Statistics New Zealand. Available at:; last accessed 20 August, 2012.
Statistics New Zealand (2012). Regional Summary Tables by Regional Council. Wellington: Statistics New Zealand. Available at:; last accessed 23 August, 2012.
Stephens, C., Alpass, F., Towers, A., Noone, J. and Stevenson, B. (2011). The effects of socio-economic inequalities of working life on health: implications for an ageing population. Kotuitui: New Zealand Journal of Social Sciences Online, 6, 7385. doi: 10.1080/1177083x.2011.614264.
Steptoe, A., Wardle, J. and Marmot, M. (2005). Positive affect and health-related neuroendocrine, cardiovascular, and inflammatory processes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 102, 65086512. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0409174102.
Trigg, R., Watts, S., Jones, R., Tod, A. and Elliman, R. (2012). Self-reported quality of life ratings of people with dementia: the role of attitudes to aging. International Psychogeriatrics, 24, 10851093. doi:10.1017/S1041610212000038.
Uotinen, V., Rantanen, T. and Suutama, T. (2005). Perceived age as a predictor of old age mortality: a 13-year prospective study. Age and Ageing, 34, 368372. doi: 10.1093/ageing/afi091.
Windsor, T. D. and Anstey, K. J. (2010). Age differences in psychosocial predictors of positive and negative affect: a longitudinal investigation of young, midlife, and older adults. Psychology and Aging, 2, 641.


Attitudes to aging in midlife are related to health conditions and mood

  • Anna M. Thorpe (a1), John F. Pearson (a2), Philip J. Schluter (a3), Janet K. Spittlehouse (a1) and Peter R. Joyce (a1)...


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed