Nav: Home

Life skills are important for wellbeing in later life

April 10, 2017

Life skills, such as persistence, conscientiousness and control, are as important to wealth and wellbeing in later life as they are when people are much younger, according to new research led by UCL.

Five life skills - emotional stability, determination, control, optimism and conscientiousness - play a key role in promoting educational and occupational success in early life but little has been known about their importance in later life.

In the study, published in the journal PNAS, the academics looked at the impact of these attributes in over 8,000 men and women aged 52 and older who took part in the English Longitudinal Study of Aging.

The researchers found that people who have more life skills enjoy a range of benefits including greater financial stability, less depression, low social isolation, better health and fewer chronic diseases.

They benefitted from favourable objective biomarkers in the blood including lower levels of cholesterol and of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation relevant to a number of different diseases. They also had smaller waistlines, where fat accumulation is particularly relevant to metabolic and cardiovascular diseases, than people with few life skills.

"No single attribute was more important than others. Rather, the effects depended on the accumulation of life skills," said Professor Andrew Steptoe (UCL Epidemiology and Public Health), who co-led the research.

The study found a range of health and social outcomes depending on the number of life skills a person has. For example, the proportion of participants reporting significant depressive symptoms declined from 22.8% among those with low life skills to 3.1% in those with four or five skills.

Nearly half the people who reported the highest levels of loneliness had the fewest skills, declining to 10.5% in those with four or five attributes. Regular volunteering rose from 28.7% to 40% with increasing numbers of life skills.

In terms of health, the proportion of respondents who rated their health as only fair or poor was 36.7% among those with low life skills, falling to 6% in participants with a higher number of attributes.. People with more skills walked significantly faster than those with fewer- walking speed is an objective measure predicting future mortality in older population samples.

Although causal conclusions cannot be drawn from observational studies, the researchers took cognitive function, education and family background into account, ruling them out as being responsible for the outcomes associated with life skills.

"There is research on individual factors such as conscientiousness and optimism in adults, but the combinations of these life skills has not be studied very much before", said Steptoe.

"We were surprised by the range of processes - economic, social, psychological, biological, and health and disability related - that seem to be related to these life skills. Our research suggests that fostering and maintaining these skills in adult life may be relevant to health and wellbeing at older ages."
-end-


University College London

Related Health Articles:

Health records pin broad set of health risks on genetic premutation
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Marshfield Clinic have found that there may be a much broader health risk to carriers of the FMR1 premutation, with potentially dozens of clinical conditions that can be ascribed directly to carrying it.
Attitudes about health affect how older adults engage with negative health news
To get older adults to pay attention to important health information, preface it with the good news about their health.
Geographic and health system correlates of interprofessional oral health practice
In the current issue of Family Medicine and Community Health (Volume 6, Number 2, 2018, pp.
Bloomberg era's emphasis on 'health in all policies' improved New Yorkers' heart health
From 2002 to 2013, New York City implemented a series of policies prioritizing the public's health in areas beyond traditional healthcare policies and illustrated the potential to reduce cardiovascular disease risk.
Youth consider mobile health units a safe place for sexual health services
Mobile health units bring important medical services to communities across the country.
More Health News and Health Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Rethinking Anger
Anger is universal and complex: it can be quiet, festering, justified, vengeful, and destructive. This hour, TED speakers explore the many sides of anger, why we need it, and who's allowed to feel it. Guests include psychologists Ryan Martin and Russell Kolts, writer Soraya Chemaly, former talk radio host Lisa Fritsch, and business professor Dan Moshavi.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...