You and Your Self-Directed Ageism
Plus: Antidepressants for pain: Do they even work?
The idea that ageism can be harmful is nothing new. I’ve written a lot about how negative characterizations of aging, and the common fear of aging many of us harbor, is all just plain unhealthy, literally. But this notion is new to me:
Through the course of life, at all ages, we get so many cues that aging is a bad thing and tend to internalize ageist beliefs without realizing it, that we end up developing self-directed ageism.
“Older people are regularly exposed to ageism such as negative assumptions about their worth, capacity or level of understanding, as well as jokes about older age,” says Julie Henry, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of Queensland in Australia, “At the same time, as we grow older, we rely more strongly on prior knowledge and cues from our environment to guide how we feel, think and behave.”
Self-directed ageism can lead to self-doubt and worries about being judged, conjuring thoughts like these, Henry says:
“I’m too old to learn this new technology.”
“I’m too old to make new friends.”
“I’m so much worse at this than I used to be.”
“If I forget to do this, they’re going to think it’s because I’m old.”
What awful ways to think about ourselves!
Henry’s research points to notable downsides to these kinds of thoughts, including higher risk of worse physical and mental health, cognitive decline and premature death. Solutions, Henry and colleagues argue in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences, could include bringing older and younger people together more and, of course, cutting down on ageist cues.
My take: Nobody’s gonna wave a magic wand to reduce ageism or the many negative stereotypes around growing old, but each of us can chip away at the problem through awareness and a little courtesy and respect, for others… and ourselves.
Short takes on new research
Effectiveness of Antidepressants for Chronic Pain Seriously Questioned
A large new study finds most antidepressants prescribed for chronic pain lack evidence to suggest they work. Some might be effective in some cases, but the evidence just isn’t there for any generalized optimism, and the study raised concerns about long-term safety of the drugs. In my article on Medium, I sort through the confusion and offer some expert takes on how it should all be interpreted. Bottom line: Avoid meds if you can, and if you’re on antidepressants, it’s probably time to check back with your doctor to see if the prescription still makes sense.
Sleep Apnea Could be Destroying Your Mind
It’s loud and obnoxious, but it could be worse. Sleep apnea, a serious condition that goes beyond normal snoring, causes people to get fewer minutes of restorative deep sleep, and seems to cause tiny lesions on the brain that are linked to cognitive decline and dementia. A separate study suggest sleep apnea causes such harm directly, rather than only through other conditions it’s often linked to, such as obesity and cardiovascular disease. Seen my story on Medium for a full explanation.
The Physical Risks of Mental Health Problems
Adults ages 20-39 who struggle with insomnia, anxiety, depression or other mental health disorders were three times more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke, new research indicates. Previous research has linked mental illness to shorter life expectancy. The new findings suggest people in these groups need regular checkups, meds as needed, and recommendations for lifestyle modification, the researchers conclude in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
BIT OF WISDOM
A reader comment I just spotted, on an article I wrote last year ago about my skeptical journey into mindfulness, wonderfully captures what happens during meditation. Diana wrote: “Any thoughts or outside sounds that enter I view as bubbles floating up and dissipating as I focus and refocus on my mantra. Mindfulness becomes my thoughts as I progress through the cotton wool of my tasks like washing dishes or folding laundry.” I totally get Diana!
Until next week, wishing you health and happiness.
If you find this newsletter useful, please forward it to someone who might benefit. You can find more of my health and wellness writing on Medium, plus I post health news briefs on Mastodon. And if you want to live a long, healthy, happy life, check out my book, Make Sleep Your Superpower.