Associations of intelligence across the life course with optimism and pessimism in older age

Adele M. Taylor, Stuart J. Ritchie, Ian J. Deary

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Maintaining good cognitive function is important for successful aging, and it has been suggested recently that having and optimistic outlook may also be valuable. However few have studied the relationship between cognitive ability and dispositional optimism and pessimism in older age. It is unclear whether associations found previously between cognitive ability and pessimism in older age, are evident across the life course, and are consistent at different points in older age. In the present study we examined associations between dispositional optimism and pessimism measured in the eighth and ninth decade of life and childhood and older age cognitive ability, and lifetime change in cognitive ability. Participants were two independent narrow-age samples of older individuals with mean ages about 73 (n = 847) and 87 (n = 220) years from the Lothian Birth Cohorts of 1936 (LBC1936) and 1921 (LBC1921), respectively. Higher cognitive ability in childhood and older-age, and healthier cognitive change across the lifetime were associated with lower pessimism in older age: age-11 IQ (LBC1936: β = − 0.17, p < 0.001; LBC1921: β = − 0.29, p = 0.001), older-age IQ (LBC1936: β = − 0.18, p < 0.001; LBC1921: β = − 0.27, p < 0.001), cognitive change (LBC1936: β = − 0.06, p < 0.04; LBC1921: β = − 0.15, p = 0.05). Cognitive ability was not significantly associated with optimism in bivariate analyses, and after adjustment for covariates had only small associations with optimism and only in the LBC1936. The results are consistent with differential associations between cognitive functions and optimism and pessimism, and indicate that their associations with cognitive ability are similar in the eighth and ninth decades of life.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-88
Early online date21 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - May 2017


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