How old you feel matters for how long you will live. Here’s how you can reduce your psychological age
AGE is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
This nugget of wisdom, often attributed to Mark Twain, has been turned into many an inspirational internet meme over the years. As a 51-year-old who is starting to feel the gathering momentum of the inevitable slide, it strikes me as little more than a platitude that makes people feel better about getting old.
But according to a growing body of research, there is more to it than that. Subjective age – how old we feel – has a very real impact on health and longevity. People who feel younger than their years often actually are, in terms of how long they have left to live.
The question of what controls our subjective age, and whether we can change it, has always been tricky to address scientifically. Now, research is revealing some surprising answers. The good news is that many of the factors that help determine how old we feel are things that we can control to add years to our lives –and life to our years.
We have known for a while now that simply counting the number of years someone has been alive isn’t necessarily the most accurate way of gauging longevity. Biological “ageing clocks” measure various markers in the body to see how far along the physical ageing process we are (see “Old bones?“). But we also know that physical ageing is not the be-all and end-all. Gerontologists recognise that just as we can make generalisations about the ways that physical ageing affects our bodies –