Online Program

Situational and experiential factors associated with ageist attitudes among college students

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Matthew Lee Smith, PhD, MPH, CHES, Department of Health Promotion and Behavior, Workplace Health Group, University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Clayton Cowart, The University of Georgia, Athens, GA
SangNam Ahn, PhD, MPSA, Division of Health Systems Management and Policy, The University of Memphis School of Public Health, Memphis, TN
Samuel Towne, PhD, MPH, CPH, Health Promotion and Community Health Sciences, School of Public Health, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX
Marcia Ory, PhD, MPH, Health Promotion and Community Health Sciences, School of Public Health, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX
Mindy Menn, MS, Health Education & Behavior, University of Florida, Gainsville, FL
Don Chaney, PhD, MCHES, Department of Health Education and Promotion, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC
Background. As the aging population grows, ageist views may have increasingly deleterious effects on older adult health.  The high levels of ageism among young adults may originate from their limited interactions with older adults. This study examines factors associated with ageist attitudes among college students.

Methods. Data were analyzed from 622 college students using an internet-delivered questionnaire. Participants were asked to rate their level of agreement to 17 ageist statements depicting the aging process and older adults. Examples of ageist items included, “most old people are irritable, grouchy, and unpleasant” and “most old people get set in their ways and are unable to change.” An exploratory factor analysis was performed to create the Ageist Attitude Scale (AAS), which was then assessed using an internal consistency coefficient (alpha=0.944).  A linear regression analysis was performed to identify the relationships between participants’ interactions with older adults and their self-identified ageist attitudes (i.e., AAS score).

Results. Approximately 25% of participants interacted with older adults one or more times per week, 38.3% had resided with an older adult in their lifetime, and 77.8% had volunteered/worked with an older adult.  Having more frequent interaction with older adults (P=0.001), experience living with an older adult (P=0.030), and experience volunteering/working with an older adult (P=0.045) was associated with significantly lower AAS scores.

Conclusions: Findings suggest that increased exposure to and interactions with older adults can reduce ageist views among college students.  Examining college students’ responses to ageist statements has practical implications for developing educational interventions to combat ageism.

Learning Areas:

Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related education
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Identify the prevalence of ageist attitudes among college students Describe how varying levels of interaction with older adults impacts ageist attitudes among college students Discuss strategies to raise awareness about ageism and combat ageist attitudes

Keyword(s): Health Promotion and Education, Health Disparities/Inequities

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been an aging researcher for 7 years and worked with college populations (research, instruction, and interventions) for an additional 5 years.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.