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Chapter 20 – Adulthood: Biosocial Development Senescence. A gradual physical decline that is related to aging and during which the body becomes less strong and efficient. The Aging Brain.

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chapter 20 adulthood biosocial development senescence
Chapter 20 – Adulthood: Biosocial DevelopmentSenescence
  • A gradual physical decline that is related to aging and during which the body becomes less strong and efficient.
the aging brain
The Aging Brain
  • Neurons fire more slowly, messages sent from the axon of one neuron are not picked up as quickly by the dendrite of another neuron, reaction time lengthens
  • Brain size decreases, multitasking gets harder, processing takes longer
  • Complex working memory tasks may become impossible
the aging brain1
The Aging Brain

Severe brain loss in middle age is usually due to:

  • Drug abuse
  • Poor circulation
  • Viruses
  • Genes
physical appearance
Physical Appearance
  • Collagen decreases by about 1% per year
  • By age 30: Skin is becoming thinner and less flexible; wrinkles become visible
  • By age 60: All faces are wrinkled
  • Hair turns gray and gets thinner
  • “Middle-age spread” appears
  • Muscles weaken
  • Height decreases by late middle age
  • Many changes occur more slowly in people who exercise.
sense organs
Sense Organs


  • Peripheral vision narrows faster than frontal vision
  • Color vision shifts from vivid to faded more quickly than does black and white
  • Nearsightedness: Increases gradually beginning in one’s 20s.
  • Farsightedness:Lens of the eye is less elastic and the cornea flattens by middle age.
  • Younger adults are usually either nearsighted orfarsighted; most older adults are both


  • A loss of hearing that is associated with senescence and that usually does not become apparent until after age 60
the sexual reproductive system
The Sexual-Reproductive System

Sexual responsiveness

  • Sexual arousal occurs more slowly with age and orgasm takes longer.
  • Distress at slower responsiveness is more associated with anxiety, interpersonal relationships, and expectations than with aging itself.
  • Study Findings:

- Adults of all ages enjoy “very high levels of emotional satisfaction and physical pleasure from sex within their relationships.”

- Men and women were most likely to be “extremely satisfied” with sex if in a committed, monogamous relationship.

  • Infertility is most common in nations where medical care is scarce and STIs are common.
  • United States: 15% of all couples are infertile
    • Partly because many postpone childbearing
    • Half of those trying to conceive in their 40s are infertile and the other half risk various complications
causes of infertility
Causes of Infertility

In males:

  • Multiple factors (e.g. advanced age, fever, radiation, prescription drugs, stress, environmental toxins, drug abuse, alcoholism, cigarette smoking) can reduce sperm number, shape, and motility.

In females:

  • Fertility can be affected by anything that impairs physical functioning (e.g. advanced age, diseases, smoking, extreme dieting, obesity).
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease can block the fallopian tubes, preventing sperm from reaching an ovum.
fertility treatments
Fertility Treatments
  • Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)
    • Advances in medicine have solved about half of all fertility problems.
    • Overcomes obstacles such as a low sperm count and blocked fallopian tubes.
  • In vitro fertilization (IVF)
    • Procedure in which ova (egg cells) are surgically removed from a woman and fertilized with sperm in a laboratory.
    • After the fertilized cells (the zygotes) have divided several times, they are inserted into the woman’s uterus
  • Menopause
    • Time in middle age (around age 50) when a woman’s menstrual periods cease completely and the production of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone drops considerably.
    • Dated to one year after a woman’s last menstrual period.
  • Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
    • Treatment to compensate for hormone reduction at menopause or after removal of the ovaries.
    • Usually involves estrogen and progesterone
    • Minimizes menopausal symptoms and diminishes the risk of osteoporosis in later adulthood.
    • Involves health risks.
men in middle age
Men in Middle Age

Andropause (male menopause)

  • Coined to signify a drop in testosterone levels in older men, resulting in a reduction in sexual desire, erections, and muscle mass.
  • Effectiveness of HRT is questionable.
health habits and age
Health Habits and Age

Drug Abuse

  • Abuse of illegal drugs decreases markedly over adulthood.
  • Marijuana use is slowest to decline.
    • In the U.S., 8% of 24-34 year olds still use it, impairing cognition and oral health.
  • Abuse of prescribed drugs increases in adulthood.
health habits and age1
Health Habits and Age


  • Cigarette smoking has declined in the U.S. over the past 50 years.
  • Worldwide trends are less encouraging.
    • Smoking rates rising in developing nations.
    • Smoking-related cancers increasing throughout the world.
  • Variations among nations, cohorts, and gender indicate smoking is affected by social norms, laws, and advertising.
alcohol abuse
Alcohol Abuse

Drinking in moderation

  • No more than two drinks a day increases life expectancy.
  • Alcohol reduces coronary heart disease and strokes.
  • Increases “good” cholesterol and reduces “bad” cholesterol.
  • Lowers blood pressure.
alcohol abuse1
Alcohol Abuse

Heavy Drinking

  • Increases the risk of violent death and is implicated in 60 diseases.
  • Stark international variations in alcohol abuse.
  • Binge drinking signals a problem
    • About 20% of U.S. adults had five or more drinks on a single occasion in the past year.
  • Disproportionate burden of harm in poorer countries
    • Prevention and treatment strategies have not been fully established.
health habits and age2
Health Habits and Age


  • Many adults choose high-calorie, low-nutrient foods.
  • Only 27% of U.S. adults eat three daily servings of vegetables.
  • Too many high-calorie foods combined with too little activity leads to obesity.
  • Excess weight increases the risk of every chronic disease (e.g. diabetes).
health habits and age3
Health Habits and Age

United States Facts:

  • Highest rates of obesity and diabetes
  • 66% of U.S. adults are overweight
    • Of those, 50% are obese and 5% morbidly obese
  • Metabolism decreases by one-third between ages 20 and 60.
  • Genetics: Two alleles that correlate with both diabetes and weight.
  • Increase in obesity rates cannot be blamed on genes  cultural influences are more important!
health habits and age4
Health Habits and Age


  • Regular physical activity at every stage of life protects against serious illness.
  • Sitting for long hours correlates with almost every unhealthy condition.
  • Even a little movement helps
    • More intense exercise (e.g. swimming, jogging, bicycling) is ideal.
  • Connection between exercise and health is causal: People who are more fit are likely to resist disease and feel healthier as they age.
accumulating stressors
Accumulating Stressors
  • Stressor
    • Any situation, event, experience, or other stimulus that causes a person to feel stressed.
  • Problem-focused coping
    • A strategy to deal with stress by dealing with it directly.
  • Emotion-focused coping
    • A strategy to deal with stress by changing feelings about the stressor.
accumulating stressors1
Accumulating Stressors
  • Allostatic load
    • The total physiological stress that a person has
    • A high load increases the risk of disease.
  • Weathering
    • Gradual accumulation of stressors over a long period of time, wearing down the resilience and resistance of a person.
measuring health
Measuring Health
  • Most of the U.S. expenditure on health goes toward preventing death among people who are already sick.
  • Public health
    • Measures that help prevent morbidity, mortality, and disability in the public at large. i.e. immunization, preventive health practices
measuring health1
Measuring Health
  • Mortality
      • Death
      • Usually refers to the number of deaths each year per 1,000 members of a given population.
  • Morbidity
      • Disease
      • Refers to the rate of physical and emotional, acute (sudden), chronic (ongoing), and fatal diseases in a given population.
disability and vitality
Disability and Vitality
  • Disability
    • Long-term difficulty in performing normal activities of daily life because of some physical, emotional, or mental condition.
  • Vitality
    • Measure of health that refers to how healthy and energetic—physically, emotionally, and socially—an individual actually feels.
disability and vitality1
Disability and Vitality
  • Disability-adjusted life years (DALYs)
    • A measure of the reduced quality of life caused by disability.
  • Quality-adjusted life years (QALYs)
    • Comparing survival without vitality to survival with good health.
correlating income and health
Correlating Income and Health

Money and education affect health in every nation

  • Well-educated, financially secure adults live longer.
  • Suspected reasons:
    • Education teaches healthy habits.
    • Education leads to higher income, which allows better housing and medical care.
    • Education may be a marker for intelligence, which is a protective factor.