Researchers from the American University of Beirut and University of Washington Seattle have recently published their findings on their joint investigation about the perception of ageism and self-esteem amongst elderly Lebanese citizens at home and overseas. The report, published in the Lebanese Medical Journal, offers food for thought for lay people and policy makers alike. The take home message? Respect your elders!

Photo taken by Mehr Shafiei

It’s no surprise that in our youth-obsessed society, discrimination against older people is more rampant than ever before—the technical term is “ageism” and it has very serious health consequences.

Being on the receiving end of this prejudice increases the chances of depressive symptoms and lower self-esteem. The health consequences of this are severe; a study from Yale University has found that those inflicted with depression due to age-related social discrimination can see a reduction of their life span by almost eight years!

For the first time ever, researchers have compared a sample of Lebanese people who live in an urban city in Lebanon (Beirut) and a rural setting (Ras-Baalbek) to a sample of Lebanese who have migrated to Dakar, Senegal to see how ageism plays out in these respective contexts.

They found that compared to those living abroad, the elderly people living in Lebanon perceived a greater degree of age-related discrimination. Contrary to what most people think, the elderly living in the rural setting did not have a significantly different perception of ageism as those living in the urban setting.

What counts as ageism? Anything from casual to systematic discrimination against the elderly because of their age, whether it is denying them employment or thinking of them as incompetent. The research says that those who had a higher perception of discrimination were more likely to suffer from loneliness, anxiety, and depression.

The researchers propose the creation of a national task force on aging that could bring together policy makers, social workers, the media and educators, to create an awareness campaign about the negative health impact of ageism.


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