Halt Aging With Your Mind

Perceptions of aging have real health consequences

Halt Aging With Your Mind. Healthy Living Magazine

Halt Aging With Your Mind. Healthy Living Magazine

We might not be able to will ourselves to live forever—at least not yet—but the ageless refrain that “you are what you think” has been scientifically validated on a fairly large scale by UK researchers.

Published online in JAMA Internal Medicine, the investigators discovered people who thought of themselves as at least three years younger than their actual age were more likely to live longer over the studied eight-year period than those who felt their years or older.

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“This relationship has been shown before, but not in such a large scale study in which we were able to look at such a range of possible explanations,” said co-author Andrew Steptoe of the epidemiology and public health department at University College London. “We still don’t understand what the explanation really is.”

The study began in 2004 when researchers analyzed attitudes of more than 6,000 adults who were at least 52 years old. Most people, some two-thirds, said they felt at least three years younger than their age with many going nine years younger, 25% felt their age and only 5% felt older.

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Some 14% of those who felt younger had died after eight years compared to 19% of those who felt their age and 25% of those who felt older.

“The first thing we thought of is that people who feel older than their chronological age are sicker, and that is why they are at greater risk of dying,” Steptoe told a news source. “But when we had taken these illnesses into account in our statistical models, the relationship with perceived age remained quite strong. We also measured mobility problems, lifestyle factors such as smoking, depression and cognitive function. But none of these explained the relationship we saw.”

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Shaping Aging

How we perceive the aging process defines our longevity. “The study is important because it provides further evidence that perceptions of aging can have real consequences for the health of older individuals,” Becca R. Levy, associate professor of epidemiology and psychology at the Yale School of Public Health in New Haven, Connecticut, told the media. “The findings show the need for society, which often influences these perceptions, to concentrate its efforts on enabling older individuals to view the process of growing old in a more positive light.”

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