Aging Well

Feeling Younger Than You Are Lowers Death Rate

Do you feel younger than you really are? If so, that’s good news! Research done at the University College London and published online in December 2014 by JAMA Internal Medicine found that older people who felt three or more years younger than their chronological age had a lower death rate compared with those who felt their age or who felt more than one year older than their actual age.

A release from the publisher explains that according background information in the report, self-perceived age can reflect assessments of health, physical limitation and well-being in later life, and many older people feel younger than their actual age. Authors Isla Rippon, M.Sc., and Andrew Steptoe, D.Sc. examined the relationship between self-perceived age and mortality.

The team used data from a study on aging and included 6,489 people whose average chronological age was 65.8 years but whose average self-perceived age was 56.8 years. Most of the adults (69.6 percent) felt three or more years younger than their actual age, while 25.6 percent had a self-perceived age close to their real age and 4.8 percent felt more than a year older than their chronological age.

The study results showed that mortality rates during an average follow-up of eight and a quarter years were 14.3 percent in adults who felt younger, 18.5 percent in those who felt about their actual age and 24.6 percent in those adults who felt older. The relationship between self-perceived age and cardiovascular death was strong but there was no association between self-perceived age and cancer death. “The mechanisms underlying these associations merit further investigation.

Possibilities include a broader set of health behaviors than we measured (such as maintaining a healthy weight and adherence to medical advice), and greater resilience, sense of mastery and will to live among those who feel younger than their age. Self-perceived age has the potential to change, so interventions may be possible. Individuals who feel older than their actual age could be targeted with health messages promoting positive health behaviors and attitudes toward aging,” the study concludes.

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