Humanosity says….The age you feel can seriously affect your health according to the latest research. This adds to research that seems to suggest that mental well being can impact on your physical health and the relationship seems to work in the opposite direction as well. Feeling older than you are can seriously affect your health
According to the latest research it seems that feeling younger than you are means better physical health and also lower risk of depression and greater mental wellbeing and that these benefits carry through as you go through the ageing process.
In research published in the journal of Psychosomatic Medicine, Yannick Stephan from the University of Montpellier looked at three studies which had tracked over 17,000 middle aged and elderly people. His research is now the largest ever study to examine the subjective age people felt and the link with mortality.
To summarise what he found was that when you control for demographic factors like race, marriage and education “Most people felt about eight years younger than their actual chronological age. But some felt they had aged – and the consequences were serious. Feeling between 8 and 13 years older than your actual age resulted in an 18-25% greater risk of death over the study periods, and greater disease burden”
Interestingly, however, the people with younger subjective ages also became more conscientious and less neurotic – positive changes that come with normal ageing. So they still seem to gain the wisdom that comes with greater life experience.
The research is also throwing up some interesting insights about the way subjective age is related to personality. The orthodox position suggests that as people get older then they tend to become less extroverted and less open to new experiences. However in people who feel younger these personality changes are much less pronounced.
Added to this it seems that the age you feel or your subjective age as the scientists put it, is crucial in trying to understand why some people seem to flourish as they get older whilst some people seem to fade away as they age. Scientists are keen to unravel the reasons for this as they feel this could have a huge public health benefit especially in ageing western societies.
At the moment there is very little research that looks at the potential implications of these findings. The belief is that if they can better understand all the causal relationships then the predictive power of the link between subjective age and health outcomes should be being used by doctors to try and identify those who are at the most risk future health problems