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If You Think This About Yourself, You'll Live Longer, Says New Study

These are the amazing benefits of feeling younger than your age, say top psychologists.
FACT CHECKED BY Alex Daniel

Whatever your driver's license may tell you, a new study from the American Psychological Association and published in the journal Psychology and Aging says it's how old you feel that truly counts.

The researchers report that older adults who feel younger than they actually are enjoy a bounty of amazing benefits that include stronger thinking skills, less inflammation, improved wellbeing, lower odds of visiting the hospital, and a generally longer lifespan in comparison to peers with a less youthful mindset. Now, how does something as simple as thinking younger promote a longer life? Keep reading to find out, and for more ways to lengthen your lifespan, know that Walking This Way Can Add 20 Years to Your Life, Says Top Scientist.

1

Thinking young is a stress buffer

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How old a person feels on the inside, defined by study authors as one's "subjective age," may support strong health thanks to its stress-fighting effects in both middle-aged and older adults. Stress, especially chronic long-term stress, wreaks havoc on the body and its processes. The research team says feeling younger subjectively appears to serve as a "buffer" against the more detrimental side effects linked to stress.

"Our findings support the role of stress as a risk factor for functional health decline, particularly among older individuals, as well as the health-supporting and stress-buffering role of a younger subjective age," notes Markus Wettstein, Ph.D., the lead author of the study, in the study's official release. And for more aging tips you can use, see here for The One Exercise That's Best for Beating Back Alzheimer's, Say Doctors.

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Here's how they conducted their research

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Working from the German Centre of Gerontology, the scientists analyzed data on more than 5,000 people all over the age of 40, which was collected over the course of three years. Each person filled out a series of surveys asking about their daily stress levels, their "functional health"—which refers to an individual's ability to walk, exercise, and physically function as a human—along with their preferred daily activities. Most importantly, the researchers also asked this question to all of the study participants: "How old do you feel?"

3

Stress is strongly linked to physical decline

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Generally speaking, the more stress a person reported in their life, the faster their functional health declined over that three-year period. Also, this decline was even steeper among older individuals. Interestingly, though, subjective age seemed to provide some protection. Study participants who reported feeling younger than their actual age showed a much weaker connection between stress levels and health decline.

4

One caveat: Don't rewind the clock too far in your thinking

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If all of this has inspired you to break out your old leather jacket or high school outfits, study authors warn there's a point in which chronological and subjective age can drift too far apart. "Feeling younger to some extent might be adaptive for functional health outcomes, whereas 'feeling too young' might be less adaptive or even maladaptive," Wettstein concludes. Feeling young doesn't mean convincing yourself you're 18 again, it's about believing you can still lead a productive, active life well into old age. Oh, and speaking of aging: Check out why People Over 40 Who Do This Get Less Sleep, Says New Study.

John Anderer
John Anderer is a writer who specializes in science, health, and lifestyle topics. Read more
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