Also Appearing in This Week’s JAMA


Study Finds That Older Persons With Positive Age Stereotypes More Likely to Recover From Severe Disability

“Little research has been conducted on factors that account for why some older persons recover from disability and others do not. We considered a new culture-based explanatory factor: age stereotypes (defined as beliefs about old people as a category),” writes Becca R. Levy, Ph.D., of the Yale School of Public Health, New Haven, Conn., and colleagues. “Positive age stereotypes may promote recovery from disability through several pathways: limiting cardiovascular response to stress, improving physical balance, enhancing self-efficacy, and increasing engagement in healthy behaviors.” The researchers hypothesized that older persons with positive age stereotypes would be more likely to recover from disability than those with negative age stereotypes. Recovery was based on 4 essential activities of daily living (ADLs; bathing, dressing, transferring, and walking) that are strongly associated with use of health care services and longevity.

As reported in a Research Letter, the study participants were interviewed monthly for up to about 11 years, and completed home-based assessments every 18 months from March 1998 through December 2008. Participants were age of 70 years or older, community-living, nondisabled (i.e., independent in the 4 ADLs at the beginning of the study), responded to the baseline age-stereotype measure, and experienced at least 1 month of ADL disability during follow-up (117 participants remained nondisabled). The final sample consisted of 598 participants. Age stereotypes were assessed by asking, “When you think of old persons, what are the first 5 words or phrases that come to mind?” Responses (coded on a 5-item scale ranging from 1 = most negative [e.g., decrepit] to 5 = most positive [e.g., spry]) were averaged.

The researchers found that older persons with positive age stereotypes were 44 percent more likely to fully recover from severe disability than those with negative age stereotypes. The positive age-stereotype group showed an advantage in the associated absolute risk increase percentages and also had a significantly slower rate of ADL decline. “Further research is needed to determine whether interventions to promote positive age stereotypes could extend independent living in later life.”

(JAMA. 2012;308[19]:1972-1973. Available pre-embargo to the media at


Viewpoints in This Week’s JAMA

Mentoring Translational Science Investigators

Michael Fleming, M.D., M.P.H., of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, and colleagues write that a primary mission of the National Institutes of Health is to train the next generation of clinical/translational scientists. In this Viewpoint, the authors summarize the findings and recommendations of a 4-year effort by the Mentor Working Group, which was established to develop a series of white papers and recommendations on the various programmatic elements of a comprehensive mentoring program.

“Effective mentoring is broadly recognized as an essential element of research training. However, given the paucity of empirical evidence for what works to enhance research mentoring, and the substantial investment required to train a new clinical/translational investigator, a research agenda and funding mechanisms for research are needed to strengthen the evidence base for effective mentoring practices and programs.”

(JAMA. 2012;308[19]:1981-1982. Available pre-embargo to the media at

Editor’s Note: Please see the articles for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.

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