Joint Studies Suggest Relationship Between TV Age Bias and Health of SeniorsSource: Business Wire
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Both studies examined ageism, and the results indicate that it potentially has a negative impact not only on optimism, self-esteem and confidence, but also the physical and mental health of aging Americans.
The research also finds that among seniors who experience frequent ageism, optimists have far fewer unhealthy days, regardless of the amount of ageism they experience. This suggests one way to combat the negative impact of ageism is to be more optimistic.
A deeper analysis of the findings revealed:
Even in the highest-rated television programs, aging characters are
underrepresented and stereotypically portrayed.
- Only 9.4 percent of all speaking characters were 60 years of age or over – despite seniors representing 19.9 percent of the U.S. population, according to the 2015 U.S. Census.
- Stereotypical, ageist language is prevalent in the shows. Some choice quotes include: “Things just sound creepier when you’re old,” and “You like the color? It’s called ‘ancient ivory,’ like you.”
- Of shows featuring a main senior character, 41 percent contained one or more ageist comments. Of those series with ageist comments, 62.5 percent had remarks that came from characters speaking to a senior, while 68.8 percent contained self-deprecating dialogue delivered by seniors to themselves.
- Shows without a writer or showrunner age 60 or over were more likely to feature ageism than shows with a writer or showrunner age 60 or over.
There are inherent consequences to these stereotyped portrayals of
aging Americans – including a potentially negative impact on seniors’
sense of self-esteem, confidence and optimism, as well as their health.
- Seniors who experience ageism once a week or more report having 4.6 more physically unhealthy days and 5.4 more mentally unhealthy days per month than respondents who rarely or never report experiencing ageism.
- Seniors who experience ageism once a week or more reported that it had a moderately negative impact on their sense of self-esteem, confidence and optimism, scoring the impact of ageism on their self-esteem at nearly 6 on a 10-point scale.
Aging Americans who describe themselves as optimists feel better
about their overall health and well-being, underscoring the importance
of an optimistic mindset for healthy aging.
- Among seniors who report experiencing frequent ageism (once a week or more), optimists have, on average, 4 fewer physical and 3 fewer mental unhealthy days each month.
- And, of all survey respondents, those who rate themselves as most optimistic feel on average 12.5 years younger than their actual age.
“We’ve studied this in film, but the lack of senior representation and
prevalence of ageism on the small screen counters the idea that TV is
better than film,” said
About the Humana Quantitative Analysis
The quantitative survey includes 2,000 responses from U.S. adults aged
60 and older. Respondents represent a nationally-representative sample
of older adults based on U.S. Census statistics for age, gender,
geographic region, and race/ethnicity. It was conducted between
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USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
Gretchen P. McCartney