Study: People Who Feel Younger, Live Longer

Asher Bayot - Author

Dec. 28 2014, Updated 5:35 p.m. ET

There are two types of people: those who feel like lying about their age, and those who feel younger than their actual years. Either way, a new study from University of College London led by Isla Rippon and Andrew Steptoe examined the relationship between self-perceived age and mortality. It turns out that people who feel younger at heart may actually live longer lives than those who felt older than their age.

Their intriguing results show that older people who felt younger than their actual age had lower death ratse compared to those who felt older or even just exactly their chronological number.

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How is self-perceived age related to one’s longevity? The researchers involved 6,489 individuals whose average chronological age was 65.8 years, but “felt” an average age of 56.8 years. Out of the sample, a majority of 69.6 percent of the participants felt three or more years younger than their actual age, and only 25.6 percent perceived their age close to their real age. 4.8 percent felt more than a year older than their actual age.

After eight years, researchers tracked down all the participants and found that only 14.3 percent of those who felt younger than their age died, a relatively small rate compared to the other groups which reported higher death rates. 18.5 percent of those who felt their actual age and 24.6 percent of those who felt older than their actual age died, according to study findings. The research suggests that self-perceived age can reflect assessments of health, physical limitation and well-being in later life. In addition, it was found that there is a strong relationship between self-perceived age and cardiovascular death. But the researchers would like to understand the relationship of self-perceived age with mortality further.

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The researchers stated, “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,” they added.

Self-perceived age may not only be related to the will power of living a healthy lifestyle. There are also certain personality traits attached to living a longer life. A related study has found links of certain personality traits that can contribute to living longer. Although research on self-perceived age needs further investigation, results shed light on how people should perceive aging and how it affects physical and mental well-being.

The study can be found in the recent release of JAMA Internal Medicine.

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[Image from La Doble A Producers/Flickr]


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