Older Kiwis are healthy, social, and drink regularly - ageing study

Long Lunch 01/08/2018
Photo: Getty.

The majority of New Zealanders who reach 65 years of age have aged healthily, according to the largest ageing study in the country.

Massey University’s long-running study of older Kiwis has revealed that citizens aged 65 to 81 are in good physical and mental health, contrary to what the widespread narrative may suggest.

We don’t just suddenly become older at 65.

Massey University’s Dr Christine Stephens told RadioLIVE that the research directly contradicts the myth that elderly citizens are doomed for deteriorating health that will plague the health system.

“We don’t just suddenly become older at 65,” Dr Stephens said.

Two-thirds of the participants were deemed to have very good physical mental and social health, which meant they had no illnesses, were able to carry out daily activities without assistance, exercised occasional, and were socially active.

Two-thirds of older Kiwis are in good health. Unsplash.

Over 80 percent of adults in the study maintained good mental and social health over a 10-year period, with half of the participants achieving moderate physical activity at least once a week.

However, the study revealed that the Kiwis with the poorest physical, mental and social health were at greatest risk of early mortality. According to Dr Stephens, those who were worse off economically tended to have poorer health overall.

“These are the people we need to worry about. These are the people who will need extra healthcare resources,” she told RadioLIVE.

Interestingly, those considered to have robust health were more likely to drink regularly, where drinking was found to be far less common among poorer participants.

Almost 90 percent of participants with robust or average health drank regularly in 2006, which declined only slightly by 2016.

“Internationally, it is a very high proportion,” she noted.

The study began in 2006 and spanned across 10 years, investigating the behaviours and health of 11,000 New Zealanders.

Listen to the full interview with Christine Stephens above.

The Long Lunch with Wendyl Nissen, 12pm - 3pm on RadioLIVE and streaming live to the rova app on Android and iPhone.