How old you feel might predict how long you'll live

A new study indicates we may be unconsciously aware of how healthy we are

Published December 16, 2014 4:00PM (EST)

   (<a href='url to photographer'>kurhan</a> via <a href=''>Shutterstock</a>)
(kurhan via Shutterstock)

A new study published on Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine suggests that the age you feel might actually be medically relevant. The lead researchers of the study, Isla Rippon and Andrew Steptoe of University College London, surveyed 6,500 adults and found that those who reported feeling younger ended up living longer.

The Associated Press' Lindsey Tanner reports:

The researchers analyzed data from a study in England on aging that included information on deaths during a follow-up period that ended in February 2013; deaths totaled 1,030. About 14 percent of the young-feeling adults died during the follow-up, versus 19 percent of those who felt their actual age and 25 percent of those who felt older.

Feeling older was a predictor of death even when the researchers accounted for things that could affect death rates, including illnesses, wealth, education, smoking, alcohol intake and physical activity. Older-feeling adults were about 40 percent more likely to die than younger-feeling adults.

"Feeling older than actual age remained a significant independent predictor of mortality," the study reads. "Analyses of separate causes of death showed a strong relationship between self-perceived age and cardiovascular death, but no association between self-perceived age and cancer mortality."

Although the exact reason for the relationship is unclear, the study reinforces the need for healthcare practitioners to emphasize the importance of maintaining healthy habits, including exercise and eating well.

"Self-perceived age has the potential to change, so interventions may be possible," Rippon and Steptoe write in the study. "Individuals who feel older than their actual age could be targeted with health messages promoting positive health behaviors and attitudes toward aging."

By Joanna Rothkopf

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