Aging isn’t easy. Everywhere you look, from novels about Faustian pacts made with the devil to the booming business of plastic surgery, it’s hard not to miss just how obsessed our culture is with staying young and as far away as possible from death.
But, if we live by the concept that age is really and truly just a number, and has no bearing on the rest of it, can that thinking really make a difference in our lives? Can we maybe fight against the hands of time and give ourselves a few more years on Earth? Science says yes, and that’s good news for all of us.
An eight-year-long 2014 study of 6500 adults found that how a person feels about their age, whether they feel younger, older, or right where they technically are, directly contributes to just how long they will live.
It’s those who are happy, feel their life has a purpose, and have an overall will to live who live longer than those who mope around about their age instead of going out there and making the most of life. It’s when we resign to being just a number, that we lose all hope for the future.
Of the 6500 participants who participated in the study, the average actual age was 65.8, while the average “self-perceived” age was 56.8 years old.
About 70 percent felt younger than their actual age, with the other group feeling either their actual age or older. After the eight years had passed, the death rate looked like this: 25 percent of those adults who felt older had died, 18.5 percent of those who felt their actual, numerical age had passed away, and only 14.3 percent of the group who felt younger than their age had slipped into the great beyond.
In addition to these numbers, it was found that there was a definite relationship between self-perceived age and cardiovascular death. In other words, “young at heart,” isn’t just a saying, but something that will keep you alive longer.
Self-perceived age has a far greater weight on our health and longevity than our actual age. We can’t run around allowing our lives to be dictated by a number. It’s not only time-consuming but defeats the whole point of life — life is to be lived on our terms, how and when we want.
So, the next time someone asks you your age, knock off a few years; tell them the age you feel and not the one on your driver’s license. That’s what matters; that’s what’s going to keep your heart healthy and happy, and that’s what’s going to keep you out of that great beyond even longer. No one wants to go to that great beyond; I bet they don’t even have pizza there.
Amanda Chatel is an essayist and intimacy health writer for Yourtango, Shape Magazine, Hello Giggles, Glamour, and Harper’s Bazaar.