Can Feeling Younger Make you Healthier? Article from WSJ 11/6/22

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WSJ -Is it true that you’re only as old as you feel?

Studies are finding a link between people’s “subjective age” or “psychological age” and their future health and longevity. Psychological age can differ from chronological age, and some psychologists and gerontologists say there might be ways to improve physical health by making yourself feel younger—or at least taking a positive attitude toward aging.

Feeling older than your chronological age is associated with a higher likelihood of dementia, frailty, stroke, and heart disease, according to recent research by scientists and academics studying links between psychology and health.

Some research focused on the correlation between attitudes and mortality has linked positive feelings about aging—and feeling younger than you actually are—with longer life. In one German study of 2,400 adults over more than 20 years, participants who said they expected to continue to grow and develop into old age lived on average 13 years longer than those who didn’t expect such growth.

“It is really good and important to feel younger. It is soft protection. If I feel younger, I am more motivated to be engaged and active,” says Susanne Wurm, professor at the University of Greifswald and an author of the study published earlier this year in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Participating in new experiences, such as traveling or taking classes, and resisting negative assumptions about getting older might help you feel younger and improve your outlook, researchers say.

Being in good health is a big reason why many people might feel younger than they are—and therefore might live longer, according to scientists who study the psychology of aging. Many of those researchers believe the effect can go the other way, too, noting that those with a younger and more optimistic sense of aging might be more apt to take care of themselves.

People who feel older might generate more stress, too, whether they are 30 and fretting about early signs of wrinkles or 65 and concerned that co-workers think they are losing their edge. Scientists searching for biological reasons for the link between subjective age and long-term health have, in recent studies of men over the age of 50, found that those who feel older than their actual age have elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol and C reactive protein, an inflammatory marker associated with heart disease and other illnesses.

Our experiences can influence our feelings about aging. Becca Levy, a professor of epidemiology and psychology at the Yale School of Public Health, has conducted studies that found older people functioned differently after being exposed to either negative or positive words related to aging.

“Age beliefs are quite malleable. They are not set in stone,” says Dr. Levy.

She believes it is possible to shift your attitude about getting older. In her book “Breaking the Age Code,” Dr. Levy suggests writing down your beliefs about aging to make yourself aware of them and tracking ways in which older people are portrayed in the media to identify stereotypes that might be influencing you.

“Try to become aware of both our own beliefs and the ones we’re exposed to and don’t let them hurt you,” says Dr. Levy.

‘It is really good and important to feel younger. It is soft protection. If I feel younger, I am more motivated to be engaged and active.’

— Dr. Susanne Wurm

Some scientists believe that biology, more than a mindset, might be the reason people feel older or younger than their calendar age. One study found physiological differences in the brains of people who said they felt older than their real ages and those who said they felt younger.

The study, by South Korean researchers at Seoul National University and Yonsei University, gave 68 healthy older adults assessments to evaluate their subjective age and scanned their brains. The participants whose subjective ages were older than their real ages had smaller amounts of brain gray matter than participants whose subjective ages were younger than their real ages.

Companies are beginning to market what they say are ways to measure and manage psychological age. Deep Longevity, a Cayman Islands-based biotech company, provides personalized mental-health tips based in part on an online psychological-age assessment and artificial intelligence—technology it hopes to be able to sell to employers as a wellness benefit. Modern Age, a New York-based health and wellness company, offers an online subjective-age assessment and sells beauty procedures and products such as Botox, creams, and supplements.

Some scientists are skeptical of these efforts. Dayna Touron, associate dean and professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, says they could make people feel worse about aging. “Would you feel younger if you didn’t have wrinkles? Sure. But would that lead to better health outcomes as a result?”


Do you think the way you feel about aging can affect your physical health? Join the conversation below.

Deep Longevity Chief Executive Deepankar Nayak says the company’s technology is designed to improve employee resilience and mental health. Anant Vinjamoori, chief medical officer at Modern Age, says the company’s products and services empower people and help them through the aging process.

To assess your subjective age, start by asking: How old do I feel? You can ask the question on any given day or in specific situations, such as when you are with younger people, Dr. Touron says. You can also ask how old you feel in different areas, such as your physical abilities, mental performance, or social connections. There is no set formula, she says.

Being open to new experiences and challenges is one way to lower psychological age, Dr. Touron says. Take classes. Travel. Attend workshops. Spend time with friends who have positive attitudes about aging. Spend time with people younger than you by joining a hobby group or book club, she says. (It isn’t helpful to be in a group where you are cast in the role of a wise elder, she says. While flattering, it can make you feel older.)

Don’t assume that common slip-ups are necessarily signs of cognitive failure, adds Dr. Touron. Repeated memory lapses that interfere with your daily life can warrant a call to your doctor. But plenty of younger people sometimes lose their keys or can’t find their cars in the parking lot. If your friends or family attribute those mistakes to age, correct them, she and other scientists say.

“The beliefs you have about the inevitability of decline as you age can be self-fulfilling,” she says.

What does it mean to feel younger?
Feeling younger than your years also seems to come with a lower risk of depression and greater mental well-being as we age. It also means better physical health, including your risk of dementia, and less of a chance that you will be hospitalized for illness.
Is it normal to feel younger than you are?
If you feel younger than you actually are, you’re not alone. According to a recent study, 77 percent of Americans over 40 feel younger than their age. On average, participants said they felt approximately seven years younger than they actually are.
Is it good to feel younger than your age?
Feeling younger than your chronological age has beneficial health effects. At age 80, maintaining body strength and cognitive agility is important. One strategy to remain youthful is to challenge limiting thoughts. Don’t discard an idea because you think you’re too old to consider it.
What can I do to feel younger?
Smiling more often, learning new skills, exercising, and cutting out bad habits can make you feel more youthful. Doing fun activities like virtual yoga or going to see a drive-in movie can also take you back to your younger days.
Should you feel younger than your age?
Feeling younger than your chronological age has beneficial health effects. At age 80, maintaining body strength and cognitive agility is important. One strategy to remain youthful is to challenge limiting thoughts. Don’t discard an idea because you think you’re too old to consider it.
Why do fit people look younger?
Makes our skin younger

How? By increasing blood flow, exercise helps nourish skin cells and keep them healthy and vital by sending more oxygen to them and carrying away waste. Additionally, when we sweat, our pores open and release the build-up inside of them.
How much younger is too much?
Think of 10 years as a general guideline, but be open to other ages as well—and don’t limit yourself to dating only someone older. “‘Cast a wide net’ is what I tell all my clients,” Sussman says. “Men should date older, and women should be OK experimenting with dating younger.
Why do I mentally feel younger?
The brain scans revealed that seniors who reported feeling younger than their chronological age had more gray matter in key parts of their brain that typically tend to shrink as one age. Shrinking gray matter is one sign of declining brain health, Chey noted.
Do fit people age slower?
The results showed that those who have exercised regularly have defied the aging process, having the immunity, muscle mass, and cholesterol levels of a young person.
Is it good to have a younger mental age?
According to the latest research, the younger you feel, the longer you’ll live– or so the theory goes. “Adults who feel younger have fewer signs of brain aging and better muscular, pulmonary, and metabolic functions compared with those who feel older,” Shape reports.
At what age do you mentally slow down?
The human brain doesn’t slow down with aging until after people reach 60 years old, according to a study that included data from 1.2 million people who participated in an online experiment. Researchers suggest a healthy brain maintains much of its effectiveness and efficiency well into older age.
What is the first thing to age on your body?
 The neck is the first part to show aging. This is because the skin on your neck is thinner and more delicate than the rest of your body. The sagging on your chin and neck may appear sooner than you expected.
What makes you age rapidly?
Exposure to light is a top cause of premature aging: Sun exposure causes many skin problems. Ultraviolet (UV) light and exposure to sunlight age your skin more quickly than it would age naturally. The result is called photoaging, and it’s responsible for 90% of visible changes to your skin.
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