Aaliyah may have been on to something when she sang about age being “nothing but a number.” If you’re feelings toward your perceived age are strong, whether it may be younger or older, your lifespan may increase or decrease.
Alexandra Sifferlin of Time looks at a study from the University College London that collected data from 6,489 men and women (with an average of 65.8 years old) to see if their perceived age influenced life expectancy. A majority of the participants (69.6 percent) had a positive outlook about their age, saying they felt three or more years younger than their actual numerical age. While 25 percent reported that they felt their age and 4.8 percent felt older than they actually were.
When comparing these stats with death rates among the participants, researchers found that those who felt they were younger had lower mortality rates than the rest. The researchers followed up with participants, on average, every 8.25 years. They found the death rates were 14.3 percent among those who felt younger, 18.5 percent for those who felt their age, and 24.6 percent with those who felt older.
The researchers even accounted for disabilities, exercise, illness, drinking, smoking, and socioeconomic status. Older-feeling adults still had a 40 percent disadvantage to the younger-feeling adults.
The team showed optimism for the future of increasing longevity through positive, psychological messages:
“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.”
When it comes to explaining why the younger-minded participants lived longer, research only had suggestions to offer. Perhaps those who don’t let age dictate the way they feel have a “greater resilience, sense of mastery, and will to live.” Nevertheless, if you want to increase your chances of longevity, start getting into a younger mindset.
Read more at Time
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