The Facts Are In: Age Is Nothing But a Number

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Age Perception and Your HealthAnother study has come out showing that how you feel about your age may be more of a determinant in your life expectancy than your actual age. You’ve heard it before and now there’s proof: age is nothing but a number.

These studies keep piling up, and they indicate that your personal perception of health and age, along with your general life outlook, play a major role in longevity. So if you feel sick, tired, and older than you are, there’s a better chance you’ll die younger than somebody who sees his or herself as younger than their birth certificate might say. And if you feel younger and more capable than your recorded age, good for you! There’s a better chance you’ll live a longer life in better health!

But what makes researchers believe this?

Feeling Old Shortens Your Lifespan

What bodes well for most is that the majority of adults report feeling younger than their age. The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, shows that 69.6% felt three or more years younger than their actual age. Researchers looked at data from a study on aging tracking 6,789 people to reach their conclusions. The average age of study participants was 65.8 years, but the average self-perceived age was only 56.8 years, indicating a nine-year discrepancy between how old the participants were and how old they felt.

With close to 70% of participants feeling younger than their age, slightly more than 25% felt close to their actual age, while only about five percent felt older. Mortality rates were tracked for 99 months afterward. For the group who felt younger, the mortality rate during this period was 14.3%; for the group who felt their age, the mortality rate was 18.5%. Deaths jumped close to 25% for those who felt older than they actually were.

How Do We Form Age Perception?

People often feel that certain problems, pains, and other limitations are simply a part of aging. While that might be fairly true in some cases, it isn’t necessarily a universal truth. How a person thinks about age, acts towards age, and is affected by various challenges all help shape how they might view aging and the pace at which they actually do age.

Researchers are trying to find the exact link between perceived age and longevity. Previous studies indicate it has a lot to do with lifestyle and outlook. When someone believes they can do something, or are motivated to do something, it can help keep them alive. So getting up every day with purpose has the power to extend your life.

You’ve heard stories of people who’ve done things that seem unimaginable for their age. And although these stories are just as impressive each time we hear them, they are not uncommon.

For example, I saw a video the other day of a 70-year-old man who started bodybuilding in his 50s. He has the attitude and physique of someone who is decades younger than him, and he says it’s all about his mentality. Many others like him—they may not be bodybuilders, but “older” people who are active, motivated, and look at age as little more than a number—are reclaiming time, not allowing the widely held perception of age to dictate their behavior. And these people have science on their side—they act according to how they think and feel, not what year they were born.

A positive and motivated mentality—and not allowing age to slow you down—has been closely correlated to a longer life in other studies, too. The reason, according to doctors, has something to do with how that outlook helps shape lifestyle. It’s possible that people who don’t “act” or feel like their actual age are more likely to include some form of activity in their lives; bounce back faster from injury or illness, because they have increased energy and motivation; have a greater will to live; and express a greater belief in being the masters of their domain, so to speak. Basically, they choose to live on their own terms and see roadblocks as challenges to overcome, not something that requires braking.

Improving Your Outlook

So, as science suggests, if you feel younger than you are and act like it, the odds are in your favor. Research indicates you’ll likely live longer, be happier, and be more likely to be motivated to reach your goals.

To feel younger, start engaging in new or existing interests. Pick up a hobby or anything else that keeps you interested and passionate, and throw yourself into it. The more stimulated and involved you are, the more likely you are to keep at it and reap the benefits!

Also Read :

Sources for Today’s Article:
Achat, H., et al., “Optimism and depression as predictors of physical and mental health functioning: the Normative Aging Study,” Annals of Behavioral Medicine Spring 2000; 22(2): 127–130.
Cordero, J., “At 70, Bodybuilder Sam ‘Sonny’ Bryant, Jr. Stays Young With The Right Mindset,” Gifted Nutrition web site; http://blog.giftednutrition.com/at-70-bodybuilder-sam-sonny-bryant-jr-stays-young-with-the-right-mindset/, last accessed February 5, 2015.
Rippon, I. and Steptoe, A., “Feeling Old vs Being Old: Associations Between Self-perceived Age and Mortality,” JAMA Internal Medicine 2015; 175(2): 307–9, doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.6580.

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