If you eat well and exercise, you'll probably feel younger than your chronological age. But new research suggests that simply feeling younger than your age—even when accounting for other longevity factors, such as alcohol intake, wealth, illness, education, and smoking—improves longevity, reports Medical News Today. Studying 6,489 participants in the English Longitudinal Study of Aging, researchers report in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine that mortality was only 14.3% among those who felt younger than their age, but was 18% for those who felt their age, and 24.6% for those who felt older. "Someone who feels younger is possibly healthier than someone who feels older—they have fewer diseases, they may be more mobile," a researcher tells CBS Philadelphia.
The study couldn't connect self-perceived age with death by cancer, but did establish a strong link between self-perceived age and fatal cardiovascular disease. Factors that speed up self-perceived aging include becoming a parent at an early age, experiencing stress, and developing serious health problems such as cancer. Still, more than 66% of participants say they felt at least three years younger than their chronological age. According to the study, older people who feel old may well slow the aging process by adopting a fresh outlook: "Interventions may be possible," the authors say. "Individuals who feel older than their actual age could be targeted with health messages promoting positive health behaviors and attitudes toward aging." (Other research suggests soda can age our cells as much as cigarettes.)