Correlates of a sense of control of aging

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Virginia Tech

During the past few decades much research has focused on the salutary effects of personal control over life events generally and specifically in the area of health. Studies indicate that people who feel that they are in control of the events in their lives cope more effectively than do those people who feel that their lives are governed by chance, luck, or fate. Feelings of control or mastery are an important psychological coping resource.

In recent years much has been written about whether the expanding elderly population will place a burden on society because of their greater susceptibility to illness and disability, or whether life-style changes made by progressive cohorts will bring about modifications of the aging process. The question arises as to whether some sense of control over the aging process exists in a similar fashion as does control over one's health. Further, if such a sense of control over aging exists, what social structural conditions contribute to such a perceived control of aging.

The present study, conducted among members of an athletic facility in a southwest Virginia city and among staff, faculty, and graduate students at a major state university, seeks to determine if a sense of control over the aging process exists, and what social structural variables and personal attributes might contribute to such a perception. Results indicate that several social structural variables (for example, gender, age and education) are predictors of perceived control over the aging process. Self-related variables (for example,self-efficacy, beliefs concerning the health benefits of exercise, and exercise behavior itself) are also significant predictors of perceived control over aging.