Younger age is associated with better overall health and can serve as “Biopsychosocial symptom” studies show that it predicts healthy aging more than age.
This youthful perception is, on the one hand, a denial of reality.
“You’re not accepting who you are, you’re beating yourself up, you’re lying to yourself to make yourself feel better — that has to be healthy,” he said. Jacob HoffmanClinical Psychologist and Associate Professor of Social Sciences at Bar-Ilan University, Israel.
But studies have consistently shown that feeling young is often associated with better health. “We know that people who feel younger are healthier,” he said. Marcus WetsteinPsychologist at the Humboldt University of Berlin. “They also stay healthy over time.”
Interestingly, people’s feelings about their age have changed over time. New research suggests that middle-aged and older adults may feel less emotional than their peers in the past.
A Research A study published in Psychological Science in April reported that, over time, older adults feel older and younger than people of the same chronological age in the past, even when taking into account other factors that can affect a person’s age, such as chronic illness, loneliness and education. Level.
Wettstein and colleagues analyzed data from the German Aging Survey, which began in 1996 and followed 14,928 German adults between the ages of 40 and 85 for 24 years.
On average, the participants felt 11.5 percent younger than their chronological age. For example, a 60-year-old feels like he’s in his early 50s.
People born recently feel that they are still young. A decade ago, approximately 2 percent were younger.
For example, a 60-year-old born in 1936 feels 53 years old, or 12 percent younger. But a 60-year-old man born in 1956 – two decades later – will feel 50 years old or 17 percent younger.
And, as they got older, the subjects didn’t age as much as their earlier-born peers.
Hoffman, who was not involved in the study, called the data “very clear and impressive.”
The researchers called the “subjective rejuvenation” effect and said that it persists even in very old age, which is a surprising finding because this period is associated with greater vulnerability and death.
The finding that people can generally feel younger can be seen as positive, as it is associated with better well-being, healthier lives and lower death rates. (As always, there can be too much of a good thing: younger age is associated with more dangerous epidemic behaviors, perhaps because people feel that youthful invincibility.)
Researchers are not sure what causes youthfulness.
One reason may be that it reflects the age of a young subject More resources than stressHoffman said. With generally improved health, longer life expectancy and better resources than in previous decades, people may feel more youthful.
Feeling young can be due to age
There may also be a less positive explanation for this recent shift to a youthful state of mind: aging.
People may feel young because they “don’t want to belong to a group of adults,” Wetstein said. “So distancing yourself from adults is a form of psychology.”
If our view of aging is increasingly negative— A study Over the past 200 years, ageism has become increasingly negative in American print media—feeling youthful may be a coping mechanism for aging.
The study also found a clear gender gap. Women say they feel younger than men of the same age, a gap that has widened in recent years, which may explain some trends in feeling younger: Women generally live longer and feel healthier than men, but they are subject to greater societal scrutiny just to grow up.
“There’s this double standard of aging,” Wettstein said. “Age stereotypes of women are more negative than men. Older women are more underrepresented and negatively represented in the media than men.
Although the study was small, it also found a learning gap. People with more education had fewer years of education than people with less education, but this gap is narrowing.
But Wetstein says we need to be careful about promoting future trends. Life expectancy may not continue to rise – in the United States It is decreasing. – And it cannot be old age in the society.
The study had other caveats. The data set had relatively few centenarians, and most age research has focused on “people living in the known.”Guest” Countries — Western, educated, industrialized, wealthy and democratic.
How people feel about their age and aging can be culturally influenced. Studies Historically, eastern countries such as Japan, China, and South Korea suggest that old age may be more acceptable, and chronological ages are closer to chronological age. “If you’re old, you’re allowed to feel your age,” Hoffman said. In the last decade, this has also changed, he said.
How to feel young but also accept old age
The age of our subject is not only a sign of aging, but also a state of mind, and it seems that emotions have an effect on people, at least in the short term. A Research If you make adults sad, by giving them sad readings or music, they will feel old later. The opposite may also be true. other Research It found that older adults who were given positive feedback on a memory test and told they performed well compared to others felt younger. They performed better in the next test.
Exercise and stress reduction also have positive long-term effects on human lifespan, Wettstein said.
In poetry, correcting the stereotypes of the elderly can help people feel younger because aging can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy. in one A recent studyHoffman and his colleagues asked 134 older adults to keep daily diaries about their subjective age, age attitudes (eg, “Old people shouldn’t even try to do well”), and depressive symptoms. Participants who were older and held more ageist attitudes had more daily depressive symptoms. “If you think about it [badly] “If you have negative age attitudes about aging, you will feel old,” Wettstein said.
Educational programs that correct age stereotypes such as older adults are naturally more forgetful; Show promise To improve the attitude to aging, said Wettstein.
Part of a healthy aging journey can be adjusting and managing expectations and not pitting our 60-year-old self against someone in their 20s, Wettstein said. It indicates that Security Paradox, where people perceive older and older adults to be less secure than younger adults. “In reality, we see that older adults are less secure than younger adults,” Wettstein said. “This is resilience.”
Have a question about human behavior or neuroscience? email BrainMatters@washpost.com And we can answer in a future column.