A new study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal revealed that middle-aged people who had reported that they felt younger than their real age had a lower mortality rate than people feeling their actual age or older.
Researchers believe that lower death rates could be mainly explained by those seniors’ greater resilience and will to live, as well as specific healthier behaviors such as listening to their physician’s medical advice.
The lower death rate was the most significant among seniors who felt 3 or more years younger than they really were as compared with study participants who felt their actual age or even older.
“Self-perceived age reflects appraisals of health, physical limitations, and well-being in later life. Older people typically feel younger than their chronological age, and it is thought that those who feel younger than their actual age have reduced mortality,”
said the UK authors of the study.
Researchers also say that several life events such as role transitions, prolonged periods of stress, development of serious health conditions such as cancer or heart disease persuade older people into feeling that they are older than their biological age.
The authors of the study used data gathered by the British Longitudinal Study of Aging between 2004 and 2005 related to more than 6,500 participants. The study was designed to measure the self-perceived age in these people by asking them “How old do you feel you are?”
Twenty-five percent of participants said they felt close to their real age, nearly 5 percent said they felt at least one year older, while 69.6 percent said they felt at least 3 years younger.
After the survey, the researchers conducted a follow-up period of 8.25 years. During this period, the British scientists recorded all types of death causes in their study group, including cancer and cardiovascular disease.
The results were statistically consistent – seniors who felt their were younger than their chronological age had a 14.3 percent death rate, while participants who felt older than their real age had a 24,6 percent death rate. The most common death cause among the latter was cardiovascular disease. Researchers didn’t find any link between self-perceived age and increased risk of dying of cancer, though.
“Although baseline health, physical disability, and health behavior accounted for some of the association, after adjusting for all covariates, there remained a 41% greater mortality hazard in people who felt older than their actual age compared with those who felt younger than their actual age,”
the study authors also said.
Now scientists plan to conduct a further study on people reporting that they feel older than their actual age, because their number was relatively small compared to other self-perceived age groups.
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