Feeling younger meant lower death rate for older people: study

December 16, 2014 11:55 pm 

WASHINGTON, Dec. 16 — Feeling younger than their actual age might be good for older people.

A study published online Monday by the U.S. journal JAMA Internal Medicine found that older people who felt three or more years younger than their chronological age had a lower death rate compared with those who felt their age or who felt more than one year older than their actual age.

Self-perceived age can reflect assessments of health, physical limitation and well-being in later life, and many older people feel younger than their actual age, according to researchers from the University College London.

The researchers used data from a study on aging that included 6,489 individuals, whose average chronological age was 65.8 years but whose average self-perceived age was 56.8 years, to examine the relationship between self-perceived age and mortality.

Most of the adults (69.6 percent) felt three or more years younger than their actual age, while 25.6 percent had a self-perceived age close to their real age and 4.8 percent felt more than a year older than their chronological age, they said.

Mortality rates during an average follow-up of 99 months were 14.3 percent in adults who felt younger, 18.5 percent in those who felt about their actual age and 24.6 percent in those adults who felt older, according to the study results.

"Although baseline health, physical disability, and health behavior accounted for some of the association, after adjusting for all covariates, there remained a 41 percent greater mortality hazard in people who felt older than their actual age compared with those who felt younger than their actual age," said the study.

Analyses of separate causes of death showed "a strong relationship" between self-perceived age and cardiovascular death, but no association between self-perceived age and cancer death.

While the mechanisms underlying these associations merit further investigation, possibilities include a broader set of health behaviors such as maintaining a healthy weight and adherence to medical advice, and greater resilience, sense of mastery and will to live among those who feel younger than their age, said the researchers.

"Self-perceived age has the potential to change, so interventions may be possible," the study wrote. "Individuals who feel older than their actual age could be targeted with health messages promoting positive health behaviors and attitudes toward aging." (PNA/Xinhua)

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