You're only as old as you (psychologically) feel

October 9, 2022

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You're only as old as you (psychologically) feel

How old are you, really? Probably your real age has little to do with your chronological age. One of the measurements of “real age” is by using what’s called the “aging clock.”

Aging clocks are statistical models that enable measurements of biological age, as opposed to chronological age. While the latter is determined by one’s date of birth, the former depends on the intensity of aging processes and can be affected by genetics, life choices, and the environment.

In a new study a team of international researchers developed a deep learning aging clock using blood test data from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS).

What the researchers say: “Using data from the CHARLS database, we have demonstrated that aging is not only determined by physical factors but also, to a certain degree, affected by mental state and social status,” the lead author explained.

The clock detects accelerated aging in people with heart, liver, and lung conditions. The researchers demonstrated that psychological factors, such as feeling unhappy or being lonely, add up to 1.65 years to one’s biological age, and the aggregate effect exceeds the effects of biological sex, living area, marital status, and smoking status. They concluded that the psychological component should not be ignored in aging studies due to its significant impact on biological age. The study findings further support the necessity of companionship and a psychologically pleasant environment for healthy longevity.

“We interpreted biological age as a proxy for the general state of health and show that positive feelings (happiness, hope, safety) have a significant impact on the former,” the lead author concluded.

So, what? For some time I have argued—often heatedly—that government and other policies based on chronological age were useless because they did not cater to the individual and the needs they have according to their real, as opposed to chronological, age.

Your actual age, as many recent studies reported in TR have shown, is dictated by your genetics, the stress level that your mother experienced when pregnant, the financial situation you was born into, the level of deprivation you faced in early life, the level of discrimination you faced, smoking, alcohol use, level of pollution you experience (especially from coal power generation and car and truck exhaust), the amount of open space and nature you had access to as a child, the level of praise you received as a child and as an adult, your mental health generally (especially freedom from depression and anxiety disorders) and the number of supportive individuals that are in your friendship circle. The last probably being the most important.

Dr Bob Murray

Bob Murray, MBA, PhD (Clinical Psychology), is an internationally recognised expert in strategy, leadership, influencing, human motivation and behavioural change.

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