Does optimism change as we age and can this impact our mental health?

An interesting topic in social psychology is optimism and pessimism. After reading this section I thought about how these can change over time considering that optimism is future thinking. Optimism can be described as being mindful of future events or goals. Does optimism change as we age and can this impact our mental health?

A study that examined data from the Berlin Aging study, the purpose was to look at changes in older adults and their future perception. It was found that men had more positive future perceptions than women (Kotter-Grühn & Smith, 2011).Also having high cognitive functioning and good health helped to contribute to a more positive outlook in old age(Kotter-Grühn & Smith, 2011).

A second study examined the association between optimism and cognitive impairment in the elderly.(Gawronski, Kim, Langa, & Kubzansky, 2016)This study was unique to other geriatric optimism studies as it examined cognitive impairment over a four year period. This study had a great sample size at 4624 participants. The results were “Inverse associations between optimism and likelihood of becoming cognitively impaired were evident across all five models” meaning that there was an association between optimism and a decreased likelihood of cognitive impairment(Gawronski, Kim, Langa, & Kubzansky, 2016). A variable in this study was depression and anxiety symptoms, these were adjusted and the association remained the same.

Overall it appears that optimism can have an impact on cognitive functioning.Also having good health can contribute to optimism is old age. Optimism does still occur in the elderly however there are factors like gender and health that may have an impact.


Gawronski, K. A., Kim, E. S., Langa, K. M., & Kubzansky, L. D. (2016). Dispositional Optimism and Incidence of Cognitive Impairment in Older Adults. Psychosomatic Medicine, 78(7), 819-828. doi:10.1097/psy.0000000000000345

Kotter-Grühn, D., & Smith, J. (2011). When time is running out: Changes in positive future perception and their relationships to changes in well-being in old age. Psychology and Aging, 26(2), 381-387. doi:10.1037/a0022223

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