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University of Guelph
Family Relations and Human Development
FRHD 2060
Gillian Joseph

1 CHAPTER 3: LONGEVITY, HEALTH, AND FUNCTIONING How Long Will We Live Average Life Expectancy and Maximum Life Span · Longevity: the number of years one lives, as jointly determined by genetic and environmental factors o Two types:  Average life expectancy: the age at which a particular age cohort can expect to live · Calculated in a variety of ways, but all depend on what is known about the par- ticular group in question · Advances in medical technology and improvement in health care mean more people survive to old age  Maximum longevity (or life span): the oldest age at which any individual of a species lives · Most researcher estimate the limit to be around 120 years because key body systems have limits on how long they can last · Is expanding the life span indefinitely be a good idea? · Active life expectancy: living to a healthy old age o Adding years to life o Ends at the point when one loses independence or must rely on others for most activities of dai- ly living · Dependent life expectancy: simply living a long time o Adding life to years · How many active and dependent years one has in later life depends on the interaction of genetic and environmental factors o Men and women can expect to live almost a decade more if disability is not present o Women tend to live longer, but not by as many years if disability is present Genetic and Environmental Factors in Average Life Expectancy Genetic Factors · Good way to increase chances of a long life is to come from a family with a history of long-lived individu- als · Pockets of longevity appear centered around the south shore and central northern parts of the province o Nova Scotians seem to bring their longevity with them, suggesting a genetic component to their long lives · The oldest old seem to have a different personality profile: hopeful yet realistic, spiritual, in love with life, and involved with others Environmental Factors · Diseases o Cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease · Toxins o Air and water pollution · Lifestyle o Smoking, exercise · Social class o Reduced access to goods and services · How environmental factors influence average life expectancy changes over time · We are responsible for most environmental factors o Denying adequate health care to everyone, continuing to pollute our environment, and failing to address the underlying causes of poverty Ethnic Differences in Average Life Expectancy · In Canada, members of visible minorities have a higher life expectancy than do the rest of the population o Probably because they have a genetic advantage o Because of our accessible health care system 2 o Because our ethnic minorities have a younger age structure and may have been selected as im- migrants based on their good health and higher educational status  Both correlated with lower morbidity and mortality  “Immigrant advantage” Gender Differences in Average Life Expectancy · Women tend to live longer than men · This difference has resulted in little research, despite the social, economic, and political effects of this gender difference · Potential explanations: o Men’s rates of dying from the top 15 causes of death are higher than women’s at nearly every age o Men are more susceptible to infectious diseases o Women have two X chromosomes, compared with one in men o Men have a higher metabolic rate o Women have a higher brain-to-body weight ratio o Women have lower testosterone levels Health and Illness Defining Health and Illness · Health: the absence of acute and chronic physical or mental disease and impairments · Illness: the presence of a physical or mental disease or impairment · Rating health turns out to be predictive of illness and mortality: o Self-rated health captures more aspects of health than other measures o Poor self-rated health reflects respondents’ belied that they are on a downward trajectory in functioning o People’s self-ratings affect their health-related behaviours, which in turn affect health outcomes o Self-rated health may actually represent an assessment of people’s internal and external re- sources that are available to support health · Relationship between self-rated health and health outcomes in complex Quality of Life · Multidimensional concept encompassing biological psychological, and sociocultural domains at any point in the life cycle · A successful use of selection, optimization, and compensation to manage one’s life, resulting in success- ful aging · Apply it to health: o Quality of life is the ability to manage illness · Valuation of life: the degree to which a person is attached to his or her present life Changes in the Immune System · A highly complex system of interacting parts that we are just beginning to understand · Defence system: o Three major types of cells that form a network of interacting parts:  Cell-mediated immunity, humoral immunity, and non-specific immunity o Primary job of the two types of lymphocytes is to defend against malignant, and some bacteria o Natural killer (NK) cells: a subpopulation of lymphocytes that provide a broad surveillance system to prevent tumour growth and our primary defence against cancer  Also help fight viral infections and parasites and may have a role in multiple sclerosis o Five major types of antibodies called immunoglobulins  Each of which performs a specialized function · Immune system changes with age o The balance in the types of T-lymphocytes change with age o Fewer immature T-lymphocytes and more mature ones in old age 3  May explain why older adult’s immune systems are less effective when exposed to new strains of bacteria or viruses o B-lymphocytes decrease in functioning · Older adults’ immune systems take longer to build up defences against specific diseases, even after an immunization injection · Autoimmunity: the immune system can begin attacking the body itself · Psychoneuroimmunology: the study of the relations between psychological, neurological, and im- munological systems that raise or lower out susceptibility to and ability to recover from disease o Two types of investigations have been conducted involving this research:  Predicting which healthy older adults are likely to eventually get cancer  Predicting those who will ive longer after being diagnosed with cancer AIDS and Older Adults · Because of the social stereotype that older adults are not sexually active, many physicians do not test older patients · Older men are at higher risk for AIDS than older women Chronic and Acute Diseases · Acute diseases: conditions that develop over a short period of time and cause a rapid change in health o E.g. colds, influenza, and food poisoning o Cured with medications or allowed to run their course · Chronic diseases: conditions that last a longer period of time and may be accompanied by residual functional impairment that necessitates long-term management o E.g. arthritis and diabetes mellitus · Rates of chronic diseases go up and the rates of acute disease go down in old age o People over age 65 account for roughly 90% of deaths from pneumonia and influenza The Role of Stress The Stress and Coping Paradigm · Views stress not as an environmental stimulus or as a response but as the interaction of a thinking per- son and an event · How we interpret an event is what matters, not the event itself or what we do in response to it · Stress is a particular relationship between the person as taxing or exceeding his or her resources and endangering his or her well-being o This definition states that stress is a transactional process between a person and the environ- ment, that it takes into account personal resources, that the person’s appraisal of the situation is key, and that unless the situation is considered to be threatening, challenging, or harmful, stress does not result Appraisal · Primary Appraisal: categorizes events into three groups based on the significance they have for our well-being, irrelevant, benign or positive, and stressful o Act as a filter for events we experience o We decide which events are potentially stressful and which ones are not  We can effectively sort out the events that may be problems and those that are not, al- lowing us to concentrate on dealing with life’s difficulties more effectively  We could be wrong about our reading of an event o Irrelevant events are ones that have no bearing on us personally o Benign or positive events are ones that have good effects o Stressful events are ones that are appraised as harmful, threatening, or challenging · Secondary Appraisal: evaluates out perceived ability to cope with harm, threat, or challenge o Equivalent of asking, “what can I do?”, “how likely is it that I can use one of my options success- fully?”, and “will this option reduce my stress?” · Reappraisal: involves making a new primary or secondary appraisal resulting from changes in the situ- ation o Can either increase stress or lower stress 4 Coping · Attempts to deal with stressful events · A complex, evolving process of dealing with stress that is learned · Seen as a dynamic, evolving process that is fine-tuned over time · Problem-focused coping: involves attempts to tackle the problem head-on o E.g. taking medication to treat a disease and spending more time studying for exams o Entails doing something directly about the problem at hand · Emotional-focused coping: involves dealing with one’s feelings about the stressful event o E.g. allowing oneself to express anger or frustration over becoming ill or failing an exam o Purpose may be to help oneself deal with situations that are difficult or impossible to tackle head-on · People use many different types of behaviours when they feel stress · How well we cope depends on several factors o Psychologically o Social skills and social support o Financial resources Aging and the Stress and Coping Paradigm · Younger people experience more stress in the areas of finance, work, home maintenance, personal life, family, and friends than do older adults · Stresses reported frequently by older adults may be more age-related than role-related o Environmental stress may be caused by a decreased ability to get around rather than by a spe- cific role · Older adults are more likely to use
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