Feeling younger than your age is a sign of brain health, new research finds.
Brain scans showed that those who felt younger than their age had increased gray matter in critical brain regions.
They also did better on memory tests and were less likely to report depressive symptoms.
It may be that people are able to intuitively sense their own brain aging.
Professor Jeanyung Chey, who led the study, said:
“Why do some people feel younger or older than their real age?
Some possibilities include depressive states, personality differences or physical health.
However, no-one had investigated brain aging processes as a possible reason for differences in subjective age.”
Many people feel older or younger than their actual age — psychologists call this subjective age.
The researchers asked 68 healthy people aged 59 to 84 years-old about their actual and subjective age.
Brain scans measured the amount of gray matter in various brain regions.
Professor Chey explained the results:
“We found that people who feel younger have the structural characteristics of a younger brain.
Importantly, this difference remains robust even when other possible factors, including personality, subjective health, depressive symptoms, or cognitive functions, are accounted for.”
On the other hand, feeling older could be a sign that it is time to start making changes to improve brain health.
Professor Chey said:
“If somebody feels older than their age, it could be sign for them to evaluate their lifestyle, habits and activities that could contribute to brain aging and take measures to better care for their brain health.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience (Kwak et al., 2018).