Manfred Diehl named CSU University Distinguished Professor

Manfred Diehl, right, is congratulated by President Tony Frank at the Celebrate! CSU awards ceremony.

Manfred Diehl, an expert on the psychology of aging, has been named a University Distinguished Professor, one of Colorado State University’s highest faculty honors.

Known for work in gerontology

Diehl, a professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies who joined CSU in 2006, is known nationally and internationally for his work in the field of gerontology. In 2015, he won the Humboldt Research Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, one of the oldest and most prestigious science foundations in Europe. He is currently the president of the American Psychological Association’s Division 20: Adult Development and Aging.

Diehl became interested in the field of psychological aging research when he was an undergraduate at the Friedrich-Wilhelms University in Bonn, Germany. One of his professors offered him a position as a research assistant and he interviewed participants of the Bonn Longitudinal Study on Aging — the first longitudinal study of aging in Germany. He was so fascinated by the life stories of the participants and how they coped with the challenges of growing older that he knew immediately this was the kind of work he wanted to pursue as a researcher. A scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service brought him to Penn State University, where he trained with eminent scholars in cognitive aging and longitudinal methods and received his Ph.D.

Improving negative views on aging

In the early portion of his career, Diehl examined how adults’ self-views vary across different social roles and found that the more their views fluctuated, the more likely they were to be emotionally unstable and at risk for poor psychological well-being. This was particularly the case for older adults, suggesting that a coherent self-concept is especially important in late life. Later, Diehl’s research focused on coping strategies and defense mechanisms in adulthood, as well as “Awareness of Age-Related Change,” which deals with how individuals become aware of their own aging. Studies are now demonstrating that Diehl’s recently developed psycho-educational training program, AgingPLUS, can improve middle-aged and older adults’ negative views on aging, and can help people form new positive health habits, such as engaging in regular exercise or healthy eating.

He was nominated for the designation as University Distinguished Professor by a group of CSU scholars that included College of Health and Human Sciences Dean Jeff McCubbin, HDFS Department Head Lise Youngblade, Prevention Research Center Director Doug Coatsworth, Department of Health and Human Sciences Head Barry Braun, HDFS Assistant Department Head Deborah Fidler, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition Head Michael Pagliassotti and Department of Psychology Chair Don Rojas.