Perceptions of aging have been shown to impact the psychological and physical health of older adults. Experimental studies have found that priming older adults with negative attitudes toward aging results in immediate declines in psychological, physical and cognitive functions. Longitudinal studies have supported this work illustrating the longer term impact of negative and positive perceptions of aging on psychological and physical health. However, it is surprising that there are a limited number of studies that have investigated the longitudinal association between perceptions of aging and cognitive function. The aim of this article is therefore to explore the association between perceptions of aging and cognitive function across a number of domains in a population representative sample of adults aged 50 and older. The sample was assessed twice over 2 years. Negative perceptions of aging at baseline were independently associated with longitudinal decline in verbal fluency and self-rated memory over a 2-year period after adjustment for physical and mental health. These findings suggest that negative perceptions of aging may play a role in cognitive decline in the older population. Furthermore, aging perceptions may be a modifiable factor to target for future interventions.
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