POST 50
12/16/2014 11:13 am ET Updated Dec 16, 2014

Feel Young At Heart and You'll Enjoy A Longer Life, Study Says

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Age-liars and birthday-deniers... you'd best learn a thing or two from those who are young at heart. People who feel younger than their actual chronological age may live longer than those who feel older than they truly are, a new study says.

Perceived age might play a role in more than just how you feel. Results from the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggest that people who feel a year or more older than they truly are could have around 41 percent greater risk for death.

University College London researchers looked at nearly 6,500 older adults, with an average age of 65.8 for the study. Around 70 percent of the subjects felt younger than they were, about a quarter felt their precise age and just under 5 percent felt a year or more older than they were, when asked "How old do you feel you are?"

Those who felt older than they were had a higher death rate after a follow-up period of 99 months. While just 14.3 and 18.5 percent of people who felt younger or felt their age, respectively, died during those 99 months, 24.6 percent of those who felt aged beyond their years had died.

The authors say more research is needed on the topic, but suggest it could be that those who feel "young at heart" have healthier behaviors and more resilience, giving them a stronger will to live. "Self-perceived age has the potential to change, so interventions may be possible. Individuals who feel older than their actual age could be targeted with health messages promoting positive health behaviors and attitudes toward aging," the authors write in the study.

The good news is, you can change your perception of how young you are. And other studies suggest that there could be more benefits to thinking yourself younger, besides a longer life. One recent study found that helping participants have positive feelings toward age, by showing them positive word associations, helped older adults improve in physical tasks like balancing and getting up out of a chair, in as little as four weeks. A 2013 study found that negative stereotypes of aging and poor memory can make older adults feel up to five years older, regardless of their actual mental abilities.

There you have it. Age really should be treated as just a number.

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