(HealthDay News) — Seniors who said they felt ≥3 years younger than their actual age experienced a lower death rate over the course of eight years than people who either felt their full age or a little older, according to a research letter published online December 15 in JAMA Internal Medicine.
The researchers based their findings on data gathered during a long-term study on aging in Britain. As part of the study, all participants were asked, “How old do you feel you are?” More than two-thirds of participants (69.6%) felt ≥3 years younger than their actual age, while about a quarter (25.6%) felt their age and 4.8% felt more than a year older than their true age. The average actual age of all participants was 65.8 years, but their average self-perceived age was 56.8.
About 25% of people who felt older than their actual age died, compared with 14.3% of people who felt younger than their true age and 18.5% who felt their age. People who felt older still had a 41% greater risk of death than those who felt younger, even after researchers controlled for covariates. More than twice as many people who felt older than their true age died from cardiovascular-related illness, compared with those who felt young – 10.2 percent, compared with 4.5%.
The effect held even after researchers accounted for things that might make a person feel older than they are, such as chronic health problems, difficulty with mobility, or mental health issues like depression, senior study author Andrew Steptoe, DSc, director of the Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care at University College London, told HealthDay.