The Look AHEAD Research Group has rallied together to address what seems to be a growing thirst for knowledge in how to grow old with “grace” and good health. According to their group, this growing interest is focused on identifying specific factors associated with healthy aging, which also includes states of mental health and wellness.

The research was published in October in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society and funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

This cross-sectional study evaluated associations of psychological resilience with factors associated with aging in older adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). Originally presented as a poster presentation at the Gerontological Society of America Annual Meeting (2021), this work also has been published by authors in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society that included lead author KayLoni L. Olson, PhD, of the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, and colleagues who comprised the Look AHEAD Research Group.

According to Dr. Olson, “This study suggests that individuals who report being psychologically resilient also report fewer aging-related concerns.” She elaborated further, “This study is preliminary but points to the potential role of psychological resilience in helping individuals feel better mentally and physically, which can ultimately enhance their later years of life.”

The association of resilience was measured using the Brief Resilience Scale and aging-related variables stratified by race/ethnicity. The study included 3,199 adult participants (aged 72.2 ± 6.2 years, 61% female, 61% white, BMI = 34.2 ± 8.2 kg/m2) who were diagnosed with T2DM and enrolled in the multisite, randomized clinical trial comparing an intensive lifestyle intervention for weight loss to diabetes education and support (the Look AHEAD trial).

All subjects were observed after the 10-year intervention was discontinued. After approximately 14.4 years post randomization in a cross-sectional analysis, the research team evaluated their status by determining the number of overnight hospitalizations in past year (if any); gait speed; grip strength (which objectively defined physical functioning); self-report on quality of life (QoL) using the Pepper Assessment Tool for Disability; and physical QoL (SF-36). Additionally, frailty was measured based on having three or more factors, including unintentional weight loss, low energy, slow gait, reduced grip strength, and physical inactivity. Depressive symptoms were measured using the PHQ-9 and mental QoL (SF-36). Logistic/linear/multinomial regression was used to statistically evaluate the association of all these variables with resilience adjusted for age, race/ethnicity, and gender

The authors reported that lower BMI, fewer hospitalizations, better physical functioning, and lower self-reported disability were associated with greater psychological resilience, as was better physical QoL, decreased frailty, fewer depressive symptoms, and greater mental QoL (all P <.05). Psychological resilience moderated the relationship of number of hospitalizations in the past year with self-reported disability and grip strength.

The authors concluded, “Psychological resilience is associated with better physical function and QoL among older adults. Results should be interpreted cautiously given cross-sectional nature of analyses. Exploring the clinical benefits of resilience is consistent with efforts to shift the narrative on aging beyond ‘loss and decline’ to highlight opportunities to facilitate healthy aging.”

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