Think Young to Stay Young

Perceptions of your own age impact your lifespan. Seeing yourself as young dramatically reduces your chances of dying prematurely.

When I was about 40, I went back to the town I grew up in. I sat outside a busy shopping center, drinking coffee at a popular restaurant. I sat there for about an hour, hoping to see familiar faces – perhaps a few friends from my high school or university days. As I got up to leave, I was sad and a little surprised that I hadn’t seen one familiar face. Then I had an even more shocking realization.

It suddenly dawned on me that I was looking at the faces of passersby in their early 20s, instead of at the 40-year-olds. To my amazement, I realized that in my own mind I hadn’t aged one bit. I hope that this gift serves me well throughout my life. There is every chance that it will …

Researchers from University College London explored the association between self-perceived age and the risk of premature death. Using data from the English Longitudinal Study of Aging, they demonstrated that you live longer if you feel younger.

The average age of the group they studied was 66 years, whereas their mean perceived age was 57 years. This itself is interesting – most people felt they were 9 years younger than their real age.

They observed the group over almost a decade and found that people who felt older than their actual age died early. In fact, their risk of dying was a colossal 41% higher than their peers who felt younger than their real age!

The research did not explain why you live longer when you feel younger. Smart statistical analysis revealed that the observation was not due to participants in the terminal phase of their lives feeling older. This suggests that the mental and emotional states underlying youthful self-perception may well have concrete impact on lifespan. Food for thought!

At the very least, I encourage you not to label yourself or describe yourself as being old. If you permit self-talk that makes you feel older than you are, you are likely to behave older than you are, and this alone can have serious impact on your health and happiness.

My advice, for WHealth: Think young. Act young. Stay young.

Have fun,

Roddy

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