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PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles
Geriatrics - Physics

Happy Aged People Are All Alike, While Every Unhappy Aged Person Is Unhappy in Its Own Way
Published: Thursday, September 08, 2011
Author: Michele Tumminello et al.

by Michele Tumminello, Salvatore Miccichè, Ligia J. Dominguez, Giovanni Lamura, Maria Gabriella Melchiorre, Mario Barbagallo, Rosario N. Mantegna

Aging of the world's population represents one of the most remarkable success stories of medicine and of humankind, but it is also a source of various challenges. The aim of the collaborative cross-cultural European study of adult well being (ESAW) is to frame the concept of aging successfully within a causal model that embraces physical health and functional status, cognitive efficacy, material security, social support resources, and life activity. Within the framework of this project, we show here that the degree of heterogeneity among people who view aging in a positive light is significantly lower than the degree of heterogeneity of those who hold a negative perception of aging. We base this conclusion on our analysis of a survey involving 12,478 people aged 50 to 90 from six West European countries. We treat the survey database as a bipartite network in which individual respondents are linked to the actual answers they provide. Taking this perspective allows us to construct a projected network of respondents in which each link indicates a statistically validated similarity of answers profile between the connected respondents, and to identify clusters of individuals independently of demographics. We show that mental and physical well-being are key factors determining a positive perception of aging. We further observe that psychological aspects, like self-esteem and resilience, and the nationality of respondents are relevant aspects to discriminate among participants who indicate positive perception of aging.
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