New research shows how feeling young can greatly impact stress reduction and slow down cognitive decline. People who feel younger have a greater sense of well-being, less inflammation, and better cognitive function. They also have a lower risk of hospitalization.
According to a study published by the American Psychological Association, feeling younger could help adults handle stress as they age. Researchers analyzed three years of data from 5,039 participants in the German Ageing Survey who were aged 40 and older. The survey included questions about the stress in people’s lives and their functional health. This included how much they were limited in daily activities such as walking, bathing, and dressing.
Participants were also asked, “How old do you feel?”
It was found that, on average, participants who recorded more stress in their lives had a steeper decline in functional health over three years. The link between stress and health decline was also found to be stronger for chronologically older participants.
The interesting part of the study showed that participants who “felt” younger seemed to have a protective buffer. Among those who felt younger than their chronological age, the link between stress and health decline was weaker. This protective effect was strongest among the oldest participants.
“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,” said study lead author Markus Wettstein, Ph.D.
“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.”
The results of this study help to suggest that interventions aimed at helping people feel younger could reduce stress and improve health, including lowering the risk of cognitive decline in older adults. Further studies are needed to help determine what kind of interventions would work best, but health care providers are encouraged to help promote positive views on aging.
With these interventions and stress management training, both physical and mental health could be improved, and the risk of illness and disease could be reduced. So, if you are middle-aged or older, don’t dwell on your age. Focus on the age you feel, and start doing activities that can help you feel younger!