Time Perspective and All-Cause Mortality: Evidence from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing

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Abstract

Background Long-term future thinking has been associated with a range of favorable health behaviors. However, it is currently unclear whether this translates into an effect on morbidity and mortality. Purpose The goal of this study was to study the relationship between time perspective and all-cause mortality and to examine the role of health behavior in explaining this association. Methods Participants (N = 9,949) aged 50 and over from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, a representative cohort of older English adults, estimated the length of their time horizon for financial planning (time perspective). Two thousand ninety-two deaths were recorded over a 9-year follow-up period (2002/2003- 2012). Smoking, physical activity, and alcohol consumption were examined as factors that may underlie the time perspective-mortality link. Results Our prospective survival analyses showed that those who tend to plan for longer periods experienced a significantly reduced risk of all-cause mortality (HR = 0.83; 95% confidence interval [CI]: [0.80, 0.87], p < .001 per 1 SD increase in future time perspective). This association remained after adjusting for baseline socioeconomic status and health (HR = 0.92; 95% CI: [0.88, 0.97], p < .001). The link between time perspective and mortality was observed across the gradient of financial circumstances and did not appear to be due to reverse causality. Healthy behavior among the more future orientated explained 34% of the link between time perspective and mortality. Conclusions Using a simply administered indicator of time perspective, this study suggests that a future-orientated time perspective may be an important predictor of reduced risk of death.

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Daly, M., Hall, P. A., & Allan, J. L. (2019). Time Perspective and All-Cause Mortality: Evidence from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 53(5), 486–492. https://doi.org/10.1093/abm/kay046

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