A rather novel survey has released findings that shed a light on how younger adults might view aging and what can influence a person’s desire to die young or live longer. While the findings are not exactly revolutionary, they take an intriguing angle on how people view the aging process.
The study was a telephone survey of 1,631 adults between the ages of 18 and 64 with an average age of 42. Half were women and 33% (538) were college graduates. Participants were asked about how long they hoped to live as well as questions to assess their views and expectations on what old age would be like. The results were controlled for socioeconomic influences and a person’s general happiness. The findings were:
- A third (500) said they would prefer a life expectancy in the 80s, which is roughly the average human lifespan
- About a sixth (261) said they would prefer to die before age 80
- A quarter (407) would prefer to live in to the 90s
- The rest (463) said they would like to live to age 100 or longer
The interesting thing about these results is that they didn’t have a correlation between the participants’ education levels or even gender. In other words, even though women have longer life expectancies than men, and people with more education tend to live longer, neither of these factors influenced how long a participant actually wanted to live. The participants’ personal health did not have a strong correlation with their responses either.
The main correlation was found to be between how positively or negatively someone’s expectations were about growing old. More negative age expectations equated to a greater likelihood of wanting to die young. Conversely, positive age expectations were tied to a desire to reach or exceed the average lifespan. Although the survey didn’t necessarily show younger adults were more likely to want to die early, it did suggest a possible motive behind a “better to die young” mentality was negative views on aging and an underestimation of the ability to cope with age-related changes. In other words, people who preferred to die young feared growing older more than they feared death.
“Surprising findings on younger adults’ perception of aging from faculty member Vegard Skirbekk,” Columbia Aging Center web site, August 24, 2016; http://aging.columbia.edu/about-columbia-aging-center/news-and-events/surprising-findings-younger-adults-perception-aging, last accessed August 25, 2016.
Bowen, C., et al., “Old age expectations are related to how long people want to live,” Ageing & Society, 2016; http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0144686X16000726.