Keywords: Aging, mortality, physical activity (PubMed Search)
Humor me and imagine that your birth certificate vanished, and your age was based on the way you feel inside. How old would you say you are (subjective age) versus your actual age?
In a few studies, those individuals reporting a younger subjective age had a lower risk of depression, greater mental well-being, better physical health, and a lower risk of dementia. These individuals also had improved episodic memory and executive functioning. Subjective age also predicts incident hospitalization.
Three longitudinal studies tracked more than 17,000 middle aged and elderly individuals.
Over a 20-year period, researchers tracked: Subjective age, demographic factors, disease burden, functional limitations, depressive symptoms, and physical inactivity.
Researchers found that those who felt approximately 8, 11, and 13 years older than their actual age had an 18%, 29%, and 25% higher risk of mortality, respectively. They also had a greater disease burden even after controlling for demographic factors such as education, race and marital status. Multivariable analyses showed that disease burden, physical inactivity, functional limitations, and cognitive problems, but not depressive symptoms, accounted for the associations between subjective age and mortality.
This study provides evidence for an association between an older subjective age and a higher risk of mortality across adulthood. These findings support the role of subjective age as a biopsychosocial marker of aging. This may allow for early intervention for select individuals who may have a higher association with poor health outcomes.
Your subjective age can better predict your overall health than the date on your birth certificate.
Stephan Y, Sutin AR, Terracciano A. Subjective Age and Mortality in Three Longitudinal Samples. Psychosom Med. 2018 Sep;80(7):659-664.