Growing older has its benefits, for women at least.
Rather than becoming moodier as they age, new research has found that many women get happier in later life, particularly in the 20 years from 50-years-old through to 70.
The University of Melbourne study found that both negative mood and depressive symptoms decreased significantly over that time, and across the years after menopause.
Until now, there has been little longitudinal research into depressive symptoms and negative mood as a specific measure and the research can be affected by bias, as those with a lowered mood drop out over time. But this study, published in Maturitas, a scientific journal focusing on midlife health and beyond, followed women for 20 years from the early 1990s.
The research – which was carried out by University of Melbourne psychologist Ms Katherine Campbell, psychiatrist Professor Lorraine Dennerstein, neurologist Professor Cassandra Szoeke, and Monash University’s Mark Tacey, combining input from University of Melbourne’s psychiatry, psychology, and neurology departments and the Melbourne EpiCentre, a collaboration between the University of Melbourne, Melbourne Health and the Royal Melbourne Hospital.
It found that negative mood scores in Australian women decreased significantly as they transitioned from midlife (between the ages of 50–64) to late-life (over the age of 65). Depressive symptom scores also reduced significantly between the ages of 60 and 70. For many women, this appears to be related to the positivity around more “me” time as they wind down from full-time work and family responsibilities.
Ms Campbell says the findings suggest that mood improves as women transition from midlife to late-life. “The women in this study reported feeling more patient, less tense and they tended to be less withdrawn as they entered their sixties,” she says.
“They were no longer experiencing the physical symptoms associated with menopause and were actively engaging in the community. Many women are more comfortable within themselves by the time they enter late-life and a majority have accepted and embraced the ageing process.”
The results are comforting for women who may assume that their mood will dip as they enter their senior years. In reality many enjoy life more, possibly due to easing work and family responsibilities.
But Professor Cassandra Szoeke adds that there have been relatively few longitudinal studies that have assessed negative mood over time in women, and more are needed.