PhotoThey say that growing old is a part of life, a saying that nevertheless surprises people when they wake up to find a gray hair. But although you can’t stop time from marching ever onwards, there are more than a few consumers out there who don’t much care for the prospect of meeting old age.

A new study shows that one out of every six young and middle-aged adults would prefer not to live past the age of 80. According to the researchers, this shocking preference may be due to preconceived notions about what life is like when you become old.

“Having rather bleak expectations of what life will be like in old age seems to undermine the desire to live up to and beyond current levels of average life expectancy. People who embrace the ‘better to die young’ attitude may underestimate their ability to cope with negative age-related life experiences as well as to find new sources of well-being in old age,” said first author Dr. Catherine Bowen.

Varied results

The study relied on data from 1,600 adults who took part in a telephone survey. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 64 years old, with the average age coming in at 42. The genders of participants were equally divided, and 33% had graduated from college.

“We were particularly interested in whether how long people want to live would be related to their expectations about what their life in old age will be like,” said Dr. Begard Skirbekk, a researcher at the Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center.

The findings of the survey suggest that consumers have varied opinions when it comes to which age they want to live to. While around 16.6% of respondents said that they would prefer to die before the age of 80, roughly one third of participants said that they would like to become an octogenarian. One quarter of participants said they wouldn’t mind living into their nineties, with the remaining respondents stating that they wanted to live past 100.

Fear of old age

The researchers say that the study results mirror expectations that respondents had about growing old. Those who had fewer positive old age expectations tended to want to pass away earlier, while those with more positive old age expectations wanted to live longer.

“For many, it seems the fear of becoming old may outweigh the fear of dying,” said Skirbekk. Woody Allen perhaps summed up this view when he said, "I'm not afraid to die. I just don't want to be there when it happens."

The full study has been published in Ageing and Society

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