The Relevance of Control Beliefs for Health and Aging

relatIon of control BelIefs

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relatIon of control BelIefs

to agIng-related domaIns
Although a majority in the United States may believe that the decrements associated with aging are preventable or modifiable (
Lachman, 2006
), there are many adults, especially in later life, who believe some aging- related declines are largely inevitable or irreversible. There is a great deal of evidence that such individual differences in control beliefs are associated with key aging outcomes including cognitive and physical health (Rowe & Kahn, 1998
). Indeed, many studies show that a high sense of control is associated with being happy, healthy, wealthy, and wise. A high sense of control is linked to psychological and emotional well-being (
Kunzmann et al., 2002; Lachman et al.,
2008; Rodin, 1986
). Based on cross-sectional findings from the first wave of the midlife in the United States Study (mIdUS) national sample, those with a higher sense of control had greater life satisfaction and a more optimistic view of adulthood they reported that things were going well and expected them to either stay that way or even to get better in the future (see
Lachman & firth, 2004
). Persons with higher control were less depressed and had better self-rated health, fewer chronic conditions, and less severe functional limitations. Overall, the results suggest that a sense of control maybe a key protective factor for subjective well-being in the face of declining health and other losses in later life.

Older adults are more likely than the young to believe that their memory is poor (low memory self- efficacy mSe), and not controllable in that it has gotten worse overtime and will continue to deteriorate (low memory control beliefs

Hultsch et al.,
). Such concerns about memory emerge in middle age (
Lachman & firth, 2004; Willis & Schaie,
), have consequences for functioning, and maybe a risk factor for accelerated decline
Control beliefs about memory and other cognitive abilities are linked to performance (Windsor & Anstey, 2008
), behaviors such as strategy use (
Lachman & Andreoletti, 2006
) and computer use (
Czaja et al., 2006
), and effectiveness of cognitive training (
Rebok et al., 1996
). Although much of this work has been cross-sectional and correlational, there is longitudinal evidence that those who have higher control beliefs improve more on cognitive tests with practice and also are less likely to show aging-related declines in cognitive functioning overtime (
Caplan & Schooler, Control beliefs are also related to health and health behaviors. Beliefs about control over aging are one key ingredient in stereotypes, which promote the view that older adults are helpless (Levy et al., 2009
). Previous work has found that such stereotypes about aging affect health, including blood pressure (Levy et al., 2000
), and cardiovascular events (Levy et al.,
). Believing that one has control over outcomes is associated with better reported health, fewer and less severe symptoms, and faster recovery from illness
Lachman, 1986; Rodin et al., 1985

). In the British Whitehall studies, results showed those who reported lower control in the work domain, including lower decision latitude and less autonomy, had poorer health, with higher fibrinogen levels, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease (marmot, greater variability in control beliefs is associated with poorer health, poorer functional status, and more physician visits and hospital admissions, even after statistically controlling for mean perceived control level and direction of change in perceived control

Chipperfield et al., 2004
). These findings suggest that health and well-being among very old individuals maybe compromised by fluctuating levels of perceived control. further research is needed to explore whether maintaining a stable sense of control is always advantageous, or whether there are circumstances when lowering or raising control expectancies maybe useful.

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