Psychological Resilience May Increase Healthy Aging for Older Adults with Type 2 Diabetes


Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society recently published a study about healthy aging for older adults with type 2 diabetes. The researchers looked into the role of psychological resilience in helping people with diabetes stay healthy as they get older. Psychological resilience is the attitudes and behaviors that help us adapt to stress and avoid its negative impact. In general, researchers are eager to find ways to support people in healthy aging, instead of focusing only on problems that can occur as people get older. This study highlights opportunities to promote ways for older adults with type 2 diabetes to age better.

Why Does this Matter?

We all hope to have a positive and healthy experience as we age. Researchers and clinicians are evaluating different ways we can enhance people’s later years of life. Existing research suggests that among older adults, higher psychological resilience has been linked to better well-being, a healthier lifestyle, and a reduced risk of death.

People with type 2 diabetes face many challenges, including the risk of developing other chronic conditions and declines in cognitive and physical function. Because of these challenges, this study looks at how psychological resilience impacts these older adults specifically.

How is Psychological Resilience Measured?

Participants in the study were evaluated using the Brief Resilience Scale (BRS). The BRS is a 6-question survey that asks people to report how well they think they adapt to or avoid the negative outcomes of stress. A higher score means the person has greater resilience.

What Was Learned from this Study?

The study found that older people with a history of type 2 diabetes who had higher scores of psychological resilience experience better health as they age compared to those who had lower scores.

Those with higher resilience had many positive health outcomes compared to people with lower resilience. The researchers found that the study participants with higher resilience had the following positive outcomes:

  • They were hospitalized less frequently over the past year
  • They had better physical functioning
  • They reported having fewer disabilities
  • They showed fewer depressive symptoms
  • They had a better mental and physical quality of life
  • They were less likely to have frailty (feeling weak, having less energy, and difficulty performing daily activities)

These results suggest that resilience may help an individual do better during a medical challenge, or that individuals may view themselves as more resilient when they face a medical challenge. Understanding how resilience provides helpful health benefits will help researchers find out what interventions can help improve aging.

How the Researchers Conducted the Study

The study included 3,199 older adults with type 2 diabetes who were enrolled in a program called Look AHEAD. Look AHEAD was a clinical trial that took place at multiple sites and assigned participants to random study groups. The study compared lifestyle interventions with education and whether those changes helped a patient to lose weight. After the Look AHEAD trial finished, the researchers continued to follow the participants for ten years. An assessment was carried out after approximately 14 years.

Researchers analyzed the participants’ information such as basic demographics, diabetes status, number of overnight hospitalizations, BRS score, quality of life, depressive symptoms, disability, physical function, and frailty.

What are the Study’s Limitations?

It is possible that some connections between resilience and health may be different, depending on a person’s race or ethnicity. Because these differences have not been fully studied yet, the authors stress that it is important to conduct additional research.

Previously published research also suggests that greater psychological resilience also may protect against the onset of diabetes and help improve management of the disease. However, further studies are needed to fully understand this connection.

What the Study Means for You

The researchers believe that being psychologically resilient may provide many benefits to older adults with type 2 diabetes. With further research, they believe interventions and support to promote better aging could be developed.

This summary is from “Psychological resilience in older adults with type 2 diabetes from the Look AHEAD Trial.” It appears online ahead of print in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The study’s authors are KayLoni L. Olson, PhD; Marjorie Howard, MS; Jeanne M. McCaffery, PhD; Gareth R. Dutton, PhD; Mark A. Espeland, PhD; Felicia R. Simpson, PhD; Karen C. Johnson, MD, MPH; Medha Munshi, MD; Thomas A. Wadden, PhD; Rena R. Wing, PhD; and the Look AHEAD Research Group.