Imagine for a moment that you had no record of your birth, so your age was based on nothing more than the way you feel inside. In this situation, how old would you say you are? Well, it turns out that the younger you see yourself, the better, as it can boost your mental and physical health.
Clinton considers the evidence and provides three important reasons why seeing yourself as younger than your years is good for you.
Your subjective age could be the key to great health
According to my Garmin app, I would be 10 years younger than my physical age – which is probably why I like it so much. While this may sound frivolous, your “subjective age”, as it’s known, is central to how healthy you are.
Your subjective age is how old you “feel” as opposed to how old you are, and research suggests that the younger it is, the better. Interestingly, most people’s subjective age reverses during their lifetime, the BBC reveals.
Children and adolescents tend to have a subjective age that’s older than they really are, and this switches around the age of 25. After this, your subjective age begins to fall and typically drops behind your actual age.
This means that at the age of 30, around 70% of people feel younger than they really are. This is backed up by an article in the Atlantic Magazine, which shows that on average, those over the age of 40 see themselves as almost 20% younger than they actually are.
While this is very interesting, it left me wondering whether it really matters. Would it matter if I felt like someone in my early to mid-50s, which is my actual age? As it turns out, it does matter.
Let’s now look at three important reasons why.
1. You’re more likely to be active for longer
Your subjective age can predict important health outcomes. While you may have mellowed with age, as so many of us do, you may also have become less extroverted and not as open to new experiences as before.
As a result, you may be more likely to abandon activities that you enjoy. Whether this is running, dancing, football, hiking or tennis, having a lower subjective age could mean that you continue to enjoy doing these activities later in life.
This means you’re more likely to remain active and physically stronger, something highlighted by research that Harvard University carried out. It found that those who see themselves as old are more likely to give up sports that they enjoy.
As Dr Ronald D Siegel from the university explained:
“When people see themselves as old, they’re more likely to abandon physical challenges which feel difficult, such as, “I don’t think I should ski any more, I’m an old man”.
“When people feel younger psychologically, even if physical exercise is challenging, they’re more likely to pursue it, believing no pain no gain.”
2. A lower subjective age increases optimism
The Atlantic Magazine also points out that people with a lower subjective age tend to imagine their future selves in a more positive light. As such, it means you’re more likely to have an optimistic view of your future, which in turn, increases the chances that you will continue to enjoy life and participate in activities.
You’re also more likely to see yourself as “useful” and see age as adding value through experience. In other words, you’ll buy into the concept that with age comes wisdom.
Interestingly, if you see your age as a positive that provides you with many years of experience and knowledge, then you may also see yourself as being at your most capable later in life.
Perhaps this is why the abovementioned BBC article also reveals that a 65-year-old who feels 50 may be less worried about their performance at work. Additionally, those with a lower subjective age are less likely to suffer from depression and other age-related mental health problems.
3. You could live a more enjoyable and fulfilled life
As you can see, feeling more youthful could have important physical and emotional benefits that mean you could live a happier, healthier life for longer. So, what happens if your subjective age remains older from childhood into adulthood?
Could it really mean more mental and health problems, and potentially a life that is not as enjoyable? According to the BBC article, it just might, and more alarmingly, it may result in an earlier death. The article reveals that researchers found that those who felt between 8 and 13 years older could increase their risk of death by up to 25% and may also increase their chances of disease.
So, it seems that feeling “young at heart” really could have huge benefits, so go on and turn back the years while you can.
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