You’re only as old as you feel, scientists are finding: The connection between mental health, age perception, & longevity

4 min read

MAY 28, 2022
May 27,2022
LONGEVITY

You’re only as old as you feel, scientists are finding: The connection between mental health, age perception, & longevity

4 min read

MAY 28, 2022
May 27,2022
LONGEVITY
You know that old saying, you’re only as old as you feel? Have you ever thought about whether it’s really true? It turns out, it just might be. In a recent study on perception and age, scientists found that people who perceive themselves as older than they actually are tend to show signs of accelerated aging compared to those who perceive themselves as younger. 1
As we celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month, let’s take a closer look at the relationship between mental outlook and longevity–and the steps we can take to maintain positive perceptions of aging.
You know that old saying, you’re only as old as you feel? Have you ever thought about whether it’s really true? It turns out, it just might be. In a recent study on perception and age, scientists found that people who perceive themselves as older than they actually are tend to show signs of accelerated aging compared to those who perceive themselves as younger. 1
As we celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month, let’s take a closer look at the relationship between mental outlook and longevity–and the steps we can take to maintain positive perceptions of aging.

What is mental health?

Before we dive into the research, it’s important to define exactly what we mean by mental health. Mental health is our ability to cope with everyday stressors, to believe in ourselves and our capabilities, and to make meaningful connections with others. So what does our perception of our age have to do with mental health? Perceiving ourselves as older than we really are can be a sign that we don’t believe as strongly in our own abilities and no longer feel optimistic about our lives–key indicators of lower mental wellness and self-esteem.

What is mental health?

Before we dive into the research, it’s important to define exactly what we mean by mental health. Mental health is our ability to cope with everyday stressors, to believe in ourselves and our capabilities, and to make meaningful connections with others. So what does our perception of our age have to do with mental health? Perceiving ourselves as older than we really are can be a sign that we don’t believe as strongly in our own abilities and no longer feel optimistic about our lives–key indicators of lower mental wellness and self-esteem.

How do we define our perception of age?

To understand how our perception of aging impacts what’s actually happening in our bodies, scientists have identified three important terms2:
  • Subjective age: Also called psychological age, subjective age is the answer to the question, “How old do you feel?”
  • Chronological age: How old you really are
  • Age identity: The difference between subjective age and chronological age. People who feel much older than they actually are will have a higher age identity while people who feel much younger than they actually are will have a lower age identity.

How do we define our perception of age?

To understand how our perception of aging impacts what’s actually happening in our bodies, scientists have identified three important terms2:
  • Subjective age: Also called psychological age, subjective age is the answer to the question, “How old do you feel?”
  • Chronological age: How old you really are
  • Age identity: The difference between subjective age and chronological age. People who feel much older than they actually are will have a higher age identity while people who feel much younger than they actually are will have a lower age identity.

Mental Health and Aging

When facing some of the more difficult aspects of aging, being told to maintain a positive, youthful mindset may seem insensitive and unrealistic. But ongoing research in the field of psychological aging has revealed that it might actually be sound advice.
In fact, studies have shown that our perception of aging may have a greater impact on our survival than a number of influential factors including gender, economic stability, loneliness and functional health![3] One study even discovered that those who reported positive self-perceptions of the aging process lived an average of seven-and-a-half years longer than those who negatively viewed aging.4
Individuals with an older psychological age also tend to have lower resilience to stress, which can further accelerate the physical aging process. The result is a self-fulfilling prophecy, in which our negative perceptions of aging contribute to the onset of aging markers, ultimately accelerating the rate at which we age. 5

Mental Health and Aging

When facing some of the more difficult aspects of aging, being told to maintain a positive, youthful mindset may seem insensitive and unrealistic. But ongoing research in the field of psychological aging has revealed that it might actually be sound advice.
In fact, studies have shown that our perception of aging may have a greater impact on our survival than a number of influential factors including gender, economic stability, loneliness and functional health![3] One study even discovered that those who reported positive self-perceptions of the aging process lived an average of seven-and-a-half years longer than those who negatively viewed aging.4
Individuals with an older psychological age also tend to have lower resilience to stress, which can further accelerate the physical aging process. The result is a self-fulfilling prophecy, in which our negative perceptions of aging contribute to the onset of aging markers, ultimately accelerating the rate at which we age. 5

What can you do?

Changing your mindset may seem like no small thing, especially if you have a genetic predisposition to mental health factors like depression and anxiety, which may make it more difficult to maintain a positive perception of aging. The good news? There are small steps you can take to reframe your mindset and shift your relationship with aging.

1. Understand Aging As Malleable

To tap into your inner optimist, educate yourself on the biological realities of aging, including the fact that aging is actually a malleable process. When it comes to what’s actually happening inside your body, chronological age is really nothing but a number. In fact, aging can be both accelerated and slowed based on our daily habits. This means that it’s actually possible to be in your 60s and have a biological age equivalent to someone in their 40s! Plus, it’s really never too late: making small changes, even later in life, can reduce your biological age and decelerate your aging process.

2. Sleep Plenty To Improve Resilience

Consistently getting plenty of sleep has been found to boost both physical and mental well-being, including our ability to view our lives optimistically. In fact, insufficient rest can decrease our ability to regulate our emotional stress response, which further accelerates aging.6 Studies have shown that people who get less than 5 hours of sleep per night also have a harder time repairing skin damage following UV exposure compared to those who sleep seven to nine hours each night.7 Something as simple as turning the lights off an hour earlier can have a cascading beneficial effect on the physical aging process and your mental perceptions of aging.

3. Tap Into Community

Seeking out encouragement from others and preserving healthy channels of communication with your loved ones can do wonders for maintaining a younger subjective age. Building acceptance around aging is a lot easier when you have friends and family members who also embrace your journey and see your evolution as a beautiful process.

4. Take Care of Your Skin

Your skin serves as our body’s first line of defense and is a vital organ that contributes to your overall health. When your skin looks healthy, it often indicates good internal health. However, increased stress levels can contribute to skin issues such as dryness or acne. Establishing a regular skin care routine not only protects from damage but helps maintain healthy skin. One key component is UV protection, such as sunscreen, as exposure to the sun's harmful UV rays can lead to serious skin conditions.

5. Mindfulness

Practicing mindful activities like gratitude and journaling can help improve mental health and even boost happiness. Creating a mindfulness routine is a great place to start. Including meditation in your daily routine can help on your journey to improve your mental well-being.

What can you do?

Changing your mindset may seem like no small thing, especially if you have a genetic predisposition to mental health factors like depression and anxiety, which may make it more difficult to maintain a positive perception of aging. The good news? There are small steps you can take to reframe your mindset and shift your relationship with aging.

1. Understand Aging As Malleable

To tap into your inner optimist, educate yourself on the biological realities of aging, including the fact that aging is actually a malleable process. When it comes to what’s actually happening inside your body, chronological age is really nothing but a number. In fact, aging can be both accelerated and slowed based on our daily habits. This means that it’s actually possible to be in your 60s and have a biological age equivalent to someone in their 40s! Plus, it’s really never too late: making small changes, even later in life, can reduce your biological age and decelerate your aging process.

2. Sleep Plenty To Improve Resilience

Consistently getting plenty of sleep has been found to boost both physical and mental well-being, including our ability to view our lives optimistically. In fact, insufficient rest can decrease our ability to regulate our emotional stress response, which further accelerates aging.6 Studies have shown that people who get less than 5 hours of sleep per night also have a harder time repairing skin damage following UV exposure compared to those who sleep seven to nine hours each night.7 Something as simple as turning the lights off an hour earlier can have a cascading beneficial effect on the physical aging process and your mental perceptions of aging.

3. Tap Into Community

Seeking out encouragement from others and preserving healthy channels of communication with your loved ones can do wonders for maintaining a younger subjective age. Building acceptance around aging is a lot easier when you have friends and family members who also embrace your journey and see your evolution as a beautiful process.

4. Take Care of Your Skin

Your skin serves as our body’s first line of defense and is a vital organ that contributes to your overall health. When your skin looks healthy, it often indicates good internal health. However, increased stress levels can contribute to skin issues such as dryness or acne. Establishing a regular skin care routine not only protects from damage but helps maintain healthy skin. One key component is UV protection, such as sunscreen, as exposure to the sun's harmful UV rays can lead to serious skin conditions.

5. Mindfulness

Practicing mindful activities like gratitude and journaling can help improve mental health and even boost happiness. Creating a mindfulness routine is a great place to start. Including meditation in your daily routine can help on your journey to improve your mental well-being.
Key Takeaways:
  • Studies have shown that the younger we feel, the better our health outcomes
  • Mental health encompasses our emotional and social well-being, and has strong connections to our psychological age
  • A lower psychological age is related to positive health outcomes, longevity, and a minimized stress response, which in turn contributes to better physical and emotional well-being
  • Getting sufficient sleep, understanding the aging process, and seeking out the support of others are all steps you can take to lower your subjective age
  • Studies have shown that the younger we feel, the better our health outcomes
  • Mental health encompasses our emotional and social well-being, and has strong connections to our psychological age
  • A lower psychological age is related to positive health outcomes, longevity, and a minimized stress response, which in turn contributes to better physical and emotional well-being
  • Getting sufficient sleep, understanding the aging process, and seeking out the support of others are all steps you can take to lower your subjective age
Key Takeaways:
  • Studies have shown that the younger we feel, the better our health outcomes
  • Mental health encompasses our emotional and social well-being, and has strong connections to our psychological age
  • A lower psychological age is related to positive health outcomes, longevity, and a minimized stress response, which in turn contributes to better physical and emotional well-being
  • Getting sufficient sleep, understanding the aging process, and seeking out the support of others are all steps you can take to lower your subjective age
  • Studies have shown that the younger we feel, the better our health outcomes
  • Mental health encompasses our emotional and social well-being, and has strong connections to our psychological age
  • A lower psychological age is related to positive health outcomes, longevity, and a minimized stress response, which in turn contributes to better physical and emotional well-being
  • Getting sufficient sleep, understanding the aging process, and seeking out the support of others are all steps you can take to lower your subjective age

Reviewed by Alessandra Zonari, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) and Co-Founder of OneSkin

Alessandra earned her Master’s degree in stem cell biology, and her PhD in skin regeneration and tissue engineering at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil in collaboration with the 3B’s Research Group in Portugal. Alessandra did a second post-doctoral at the University of Coimbra in Portugal. She is a co-inventor of three patents and has published 20 peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals.

Reviewed by Alessandra Zonari, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) and Co-Founder of OneSkin

Alessandra earned her Master’s degree in stem cell biology, and her PhD in skin regeneration and tissue engineering at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil in collaboration with the 3B’s Research Group in Portugal. Alessandra did a second post-doctoral at the University of Coimbra in Portugal. She is a co-inventor of three patents and has published 20 peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals.

Discover More

What's the Connection Between Dehydration and Dry ...
How to Tighten Facial Skin Without Surgery
Exploring Alternatives to Botox
Best Practices for Moisturizing After Exfoliating
Recognizing Signs of Over-Exfoliated Skin
Healing Over-Exfoliated Skin: How to Treat Over-Ex...
OS-01 BODY SPF and OS-01 BODY: Even Better Togethe...
Introducing OS-01 BODY SPF: Triple power protectio...
Is Talc Bad for Skin? 7 Things You Need to Know
How Do We Know the OS-01 Peptide is Safe?
What Is Lanolin and Is It Bad for Your Skin?
Non-Comedogenic vs Comedogenic Skin Care Products
Mineral Oil: Facts, Myths, and Effects on Skin
The Problem with Paraffin for Skin
Petrolatum: Is it Safe or Harmful for Your Skin?
How Much Sunscreen to Apply
What Do Antioxidants Do For Skin and Why Should Yo...
Making Sense of SPFs: What’s the Difference Betwee...
How to Relieve Itchy Skin: Tips for Soothing Skin ...
What is The Difference Between UVA and UVB Rays?
Decoding the Connections Between Intrinsic & Extri...
Causes of Skin Itching
Causes of Skin Itching: Understanding the Reasons ...
How to Protect Your Skin from UVA and UVB Rays
Morning vs. Night Exfoliation: Determining the Bes...
How to Tell if Acne is Hormonal or Bacterial?
How to Know if Your Skin Barrier is Damaged
Tips for Managing Hormonal Breakouts
Understanding Hormonal Acne and Its Triggers
How to Repair & Restore Your Skin Barrier
How To Get Rid of Crepey Skin: 7 Solutions
When to Apply Sunscreen: Before or After Moisturiz...
How Alcohol Impacts Your Skin’s Health
The Effects of Alcohol on Your Skin's Aging Proces...
OS-01 FACE: Clinically Validated to Support Your S...
Can Alcohol Cause Breakouts?
The Proof is in the Peptide: 12-Week Clinical Stud...
Why Is My Neck Aging So Fast?
6 Tips and Tricks for a Youthful Neck
Woman applying sunscreen
Addressing the Need for Indoor Sun Protection
Sunburned skin
The Science of Sunburns: How to Treat and Prevent ...
Get to Know OneSkin’s Topical Supplements:
OS-01 F...
Pollution
Can Air Quality Affect Skin? Exploring the Impact ...
Close up of eye
Understanding the Relationship Between Sleep and U...
Woman not sleeping in bed
Exploring the Effects of Quality Sleep on Your Ski...
Gut microbiom illustration
How to Improve Gut Microbiome
Woman holding bowl of food
Exploring Caloric Restriction and Its Effects on A...
woman stretching in bed
What’s the Connection Between Quality Sleep and Lo...
Healthy foods
Unlocking the Skin Benefits of Intermittent Fastin...
woman exercising
Why Exercise is a Game-Changer for Longevity
The Microbiome Diet and Its Effects on Skin
The Microbiome Diet and Its Effects on Skin
cold water
Cold Exposure: Hype or Longevity Boosting?
healthy foods
Eat Better, Live Longer: Top Foods for Longevity
How Environmental Stressors Affect Skin
How to Protect Your Skin from Everyday Environment...
OS-01 BODY
Pressing the Pause Button on Aging Skin: OS-01 BOD...
lip treatment
Lip Balm Ingredients: What to Look for and What to...
earth
Exploring Blue Zones: How Can We Optimize Our Heal...
Sunburn
Sun Exposure and Your Skin: 6 Things You Need to K...
Lips
Nurturing Your Lips: How to Keep Them Moisturized ...
Lips
Uncovering the 9 Causes of Dry Lips: Why Do Lips G...
How to Travel with Skin Care
How to Travel with Skin Care Products
SHIELD on arm
The Importance of Sunscreen: Why Should You Wear I...
Lip sunscreen
Lip Sunscreen: Do Lips Need SPF Protection?
heart hands
The Science of Gratitude
prep on shoulder
Removing Sunscreen: Tips for Clean and Healthy Ski...
freckled skin
Skin Explained: Is Skin An Organ?
UV Light and Skin
UV Light and Skin: Effects and Protection Strategi...
What is Epidermis
Understanding The Epidermis: Functions, Compositio...
Diving into dermis
Diving into Dermis: Functions and Significance
Why Do We Get Wrinkles
Unlocking the Science of Wrinkles: Causes, Formati...
Back skin
Why Skin Barrier is Important
bentonite clay
Ingredient Spotlight: Bentonite Uses, Benefits, & ...
hypodermis function
Hypodermis: Exploring Its Vital Functions
oil-dropper-background-pink-dripping-cosmetic-product
The EU is Limiting Retinol in Skincare: Here’s Eve...
face+shield
Why You Should Use OS-01 FACE & OS-01 SHIELD Toget...
Age Gracefully: How to Manage Neck Wrinkles and Ac...
Discover Why Our New SPF Outperforms the Rest
How to Preserve Your Feet
How to Preserve Your Feet: 5 Strategies for Wrinkl...
Hands and Dermal Elasticity: Understanding and Man...
The Lip Lineage
The Lip Lineage: Exploring the Why Behind Wrinkled...
A Journey Through the Skin: How UV Radiation Cause...
How to Address Stomach Wrinkles
How to Address Stomach Wrinkles For Smoother Skin
How to Get Rid of Wrinkly Skin on Arms
A Scientific Approach to Addressing Wrinkly Skin o...
What is Skin Cycling
What is Skin Cycling? Understanding, Embracing, an...
How to Skin Cycle: A Guide to Optimize Your Skin C...
How Do Our Products Work Together?
Do You Know What Clinical Claims Really Mean?
What is Tinted Sunscreen?
What is Tinted Sunscreen?
two types of face wrinkles
2 Types of Wrinkles and Tips for Treating Them
 Zinc Oxide
The Top 5 Benefits of Zinc Oxide for Skin
Marionette Lines
Understanding Marionette Lines: Causes and Prevent...
How to Help Your Skin Act Younger
how-much-sunscreen-to-use-on-face
The Science of Sunscreen: Understanding the Optima...