Study Reveals People Who Believe In Negative Stereotypes About Old Age Have Higher Risk of Alzheimer’s

January 8, 2016

Researchers at Yale School of Public Health have discovered a link between your brain and how you feel about old people. Negative stereotypes and poor regard for the elderly when you are younger may put you at a higher risk for Alzheimer’s as you age. Data was collected from 158 healthy people in their 40’s without dementia. They were asked questions like “older people are absent-minded” to “older people have trouble learning things”. Their answers were ranked on a scale to determine the scores.


25 years later, when the group was in their late 60’s, brain scans were done to determine brain volume; a loss in brain volume is an indication of Alzheimer’s Disease. Remarkably, those with negative thoughts about aging in their 40’s had greater loss of brain volume later in life. Those with positive thoughts about aging showed less decline in nine years compared to those with negative thoughts that showed significant decline in only three years. Researchers found that those with negative stereotypes before reaching old age had worse memory problems later in life.


A second study examined the brains of those that had participated in the study and it compared the amyloid plaque build-up to neurofibrillary tangles through autopsy. The results were consistent with the earlier study. Those with negative stereotypes had more amyloid build-up and tangles than those with a more positive outlook on aging. Although researchers didn’t examine stereotypes and how they exert influence on the brain, they suspect stress may be a leading indicator. Chronic stress discovered in animal research caused the same biomarkers in humans. Stressors create a greater cardiovascular response that are linked to heart events.


Positive stereotypes seem to be protective and prevent brain volume decline or amyloid build-up.  It is important to improve stereotypes on a societal level, so that our brains will be better off as we age.




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