WEDNESDAY, May 12, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Can feeling young at heart, or at least younger than your real age, help older people live healthier and longer lives?
Yes, according to German researchers.
“People who feel younger than chronologically seem to benefit from their younger subjective age in various aspects,” explained lead author of the study, Markus Wettstein.
By surveying more than 5,000 adults and middle-aged seniors, his team found that feeling younger seems to create a protective force field against stress. And the “connection seems to work through various avenues,” said Wettstein, who was a researcher at the German Center for Gerontology in Berlin when the study was conducted.
On the one hand, he noted that stress reduction due to juvenile self-perception can translate into tangible physical benefits, including avoiding the threat of systemic inflammation.
Having a youthful self-image can also shape behavior in a positive way that helps keep physical and mental well-being intact.
“People who feel younger [may] engage in health-protective behaviors, “Wettstein said. For example, they may be more physically active than those who don’t feel so young.
Additionally, seeing yourself as younger can also be a driving force behind self-improvement, giving people greater “health improving” confidence in their ability to do things successfully and effectively.
The average age of the study participants was 64 years old. All were enrolled in a larger ongoing study on aging and physical and mental health.
Over three years, they were asked to rate how old they felt, how much stress they felt, and how well they could perform basic daily activities, such as walking, dressing and / or taking a bath.
Overall, those who reported greater stress also reported a greater decrease in their ability to perform these routine tasks. And this association was generally found to be stronger as people got older.
But the link between stress and disability was significantly weaker among those who reported feeling younger than their actual age. In fact, feeling younger turned out to be especially protective for the one with the longest teeth.
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