Difficult life events impact physical, mental wellbeing in later life: Study

London, Mar 16 (PTI) People who experience the greatest levels of hardship, stress and personal loss are more likely to have a lower quality of life, with significantly more health and physical difficulties in later life, according to a study.

The study, published in the Journal of Public Health, shows how a range of life inequalities and hardships are linked to physical and mental health inequalities in later life.

These stressful and often heart-breaking life inequalities included having emotionally cold parents, poor educational opportunities, losing an unborn child, financial hardship, involvement in conflict, violence and experiencing a natural disaster.

The researchers from University of East Anglia (UEA) in the UK found that those brought up by an emotionally cold mother were also significantly less likely to experience a good quality of life and more likely to experience problems in later life such as anxiety, psychiatric problems and social detachment.

The researchers said that policies aimed at reducing inequalities in older age should consider events across the life course.

'Everybody lives a unique life that is shaped by events, experiences and their environment,' said Professor Nick Steel, form UEA's Norwich Medical School.

'We know that inequalities in exposure to different events over a lifetime are associated with inequalities in health trajectories, particularly when it comes to events in childhood such as poverty, bereavement or exposure to violence,' Steel said.

The research team studied data taken from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) -- a longitudinal study of adults over 50 living in England.

Participants were invited to answer a life history questionnaire. The research team took into account responses from 7,555 participants to questions that represented broad topics in life history.

Some of these questions were around their upbringing – such as whether a parent had been emotionally cold and the estimated number of books in their home at 10 years old.

Other questions focused on events in adult life -- such as whether they had fought in a war or lost an unborn child.

The researchers analysed the responses to identify patterns of life events, and also took into account factors such as age, ethnicity, sex and socioeconomic status.

'We looked at the life history of each participant and compared it to their quality of life and how well they can perform activities like dressing themselves, bathing, preparing hot meals, doing gardening and money management,' said lead researcher Oby Enwo, from UEA's Norwich Medical School.

'We also studied whether the participants had a long standing illness, or suffered from anxiety or depression or other psychiatric problems like schizophrenia and psychosis,' said Enwo.

The researchers saw some really strong patterns and associations emerging between exposure to life events that affect physical and mental well-being in later life, Enwo said.

They grouped the participants to four main groups -- those who reported few life events, those with an emotionally cold mother, those who had experienced violence in combat and those who had experienced a number of difficult life events.

The team found that people who had suffered many difficult life events were significantly less likely to experience a good quality of life than those who had lived easier lives.

They were three-times more likely to suffer psychiatric problems, twice as likely to be detached from social networks, and twice as likely to have long-standing illness, according to the researchers. PTI SAR SAR