The power of the mind: emotional well-being and mortality risk among older men and women in Japan

Yasuhiko Saito, Nihon University
Yuka Minagawa, University of Texas at Austin

This research examines the relationship between emotional well-being and all-cause mortality among older persons aged 65 and over in Japan. We pay particular attention to how the three positive items from the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale(CES-D) – feeling happy, enjoying life, and feeling hopeful about the future – are associated with the risk of mortality over the four-year study period. Analyses of three waves of data from the Nihon University Japanese Longitudinal Study of Aging (1999, 2001, and 2003) lead to several important conclusions. First, positive affect is inversely associated with mortality risk in the overall population. Yet, the effects of feeling happy and enjoying life disappear with the addition of health status, sociodemographic, behavioral, and relational factors. On the other hand, the protective effects of feeling hopeful continue to be robust, net of all controls. Second, the impacts of psychological factors considerably differ by gender. A sense of hope offers protection against mortality for men, but this pattern is not shared by women. Overall, our findings highlight the important role of emotional well-being, particularly feeling hopeful about the future, in determining the physical health status of the Japanese elderly. Efforts toward maintaining emotional well-being of the elderly population are needed.

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Presented in Session 93: Health and wellbeing at older ages