Feeling young is different from being young. Right? Wrong.
The subjective feeling of being younger than one’s actual chronological age has substantial health benefits. It can slow down health decline and keep you younger than you really are, a study has found. If you feel young, you have better cognitive functioning, less inflammation and lower risk of hospitalisation.
The study, published in the journal ‘Psychology and Aging’, is based on a survey of 5,039 participants carried out by researchers from the German Centre of Gerontology.
According to the study, the link between subjective feeling of being younger and its real health benefits is stress buffer effect. Feeling younger provides a protective buffer to middle-aged and older adults against the damaging effects of stress on health.
“Generally, we know that functional health declines with advancing age, but we also know that these age-related functional health trajectories are remarkably varied. As a result, some individuals enter old age and very old age with quite good and intact health resources, whereas others experience a pronounced decline in functional health, which might even result in need for long-term care,” study lead author Markus Wettstein, PhD, who is now at University of Heidelberg, told Science Daily.
“Our findings support the role of stress as a risk factor for functional health decline, particularly among older individuals, as well as the health-supporting and stress-buffering role of a younger subjective age.”
More research is needed to figure out the ideal gap between subjective and chronological age, according to Wettstein, Previous research has suggested that it’s helpful to feel younger up to a point but benefits decrease as the gap between subjective and chronological age increases.
“Feeling younger to some extent might be adaptive for functional health outcomes, whereas ‘feeling too young’ might be less adaptive or even maladaptive,” Wettstein told Science Daily.