There’s an important difference between feeling old and being old. People who feel younger than their age had a smaller chance of dying compared to those who feel older than they are, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Researchers found feeling older than actual age “remained a significant independent predictor of mortality.”
Researchers worked with 6,489 participants who were at least 52 years of age. While the average actual age was 65.8 years, the average self-perceived age was 56.8, meaning that — on average — participants reported feeling nearly 10 years younger than they actually were.
The average participant felt nearly 10 years younger than their actual age
While most participants felt at least three years younger than their actual age, over a quarter of the participants had a self-perceived age close to their actual age.
And nearly 5 percent of participants felt more than a year older than their actual age.
The study revealed self-perceived age can predict cardiovascular mortality within the next eight years. In fact, people who feel older than they are have a 41 percent increase in mortality hazard, according to the study.
It’s never too late to start feeling younger
Nearly 5 percent of participants felt more than a year older than their actual age
Even if you feel older than your age, it’s still possible to change that. Researchers noted people who feel older can be targeted with health messages to promote positive health behaviors and attitudes towards aging.
Feeling older than you are can also be a subtle sign of depression, said John Moore, DO, FAAFP, Aetna’s medical director for the United States’ Northeast Region. Moore recommends talking to a primary care physician, who may recommend counseling or medication.
So what can make you feel younger?
Stay active, both physically and mentally
Maintaining a healthy diet is important. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, older adults need to ensure they’re getting the necessary nutrients in their diet.
Equally important is staying active – both physically and mentally – which can have a positive impact on your overall health.
Moore emphasized becoming more active doesn’t necessarily just mean going to the gym regularly, but also getting more involved with social activities, such as golf or bowling.
“The more activities that involve raising your heart rate, the better,” Moore said.
Combining a healthy diet with physical and mental activity, as well as getting enough sleep, can result in feeling better emotionally and help with preventing the development of chronic conditions.