While everyone has an age based on their date of birth – their “chronological age” – they also have a so-called “biological age”, based on the aging of body functions, influenced by genetics, lifestyle and other factors. Previous studies have suggested that the higher the “biological age”, the greater the risk of various diseases and the risk of death. Now, researchers say they have created a digital model of aging, revealing the importance of psychological health.
“Your body and soul are connected – this is our main message,” said Fedor Galkin, co-author of the study, quoted by The Guardian.
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According to the article, researchers from Stanford University and the University of Hong Kong report how they constructed an “aging clock” based on data collected from 4,846 adults in 2015 as part of the China Longitudinal Health and Reform Study (CHARLS) .
This included 16 blood biomarkers, including cholesterol and glucose levels, the sex of participants, and information such as blood pressure, body mass index, and lung function measurements.
The team compared the chronological age of the individuals predicted by the model with their actual age. The results suggested a difference, on average, of almost 5.7 years above or below the participant’s actual age.
“We showed that psychological factors, such as feeling unhappy or lonely, add up to 1.65 years of biological age”
The researchers found that when the model was applied to CHARLS data from more than 2,617 Chinese adults with age-related illnesses, those with a history of stroke, liver disease, and lung disease were predicted to be greater than 4,451 healthy adults, corresponding to to them. . by chronological age, sex and area of life.
The average effect of these conditions did not add more than 18 months to the predicted age. However, the team found other influences on the pace of aging.
“We show that psychological factors, such as feeling unhappy or lonely, add up to 1.65 years of biological age,” they write.
The study highlights the importance of psychological state in how quickly we age. “Taking care of your psychological health is the single biggest contributor you can have to slowing your pace of aging,” explained Galkin.
People who smoke will be 15 months older than non-smokers
The team also revealed that people who smoke are 15 months older than their non-smoking peers, while marriage lowers biological age by about seven months. People living in rural areas are expected to be nearly five months older than their urban peers.
Now, the researchers’ hope is that understanding biological age could lead to new interventions that prolong life. Andrew Steptoe, professor of psychology and epidemiology at University College London, said the study is one of several in recent years to use blood data and biometric data to calculate a “biological clock of aging”. The most recent work, he added, has found that feelings revolving around depression, loneliness and unhappiness are associated with more advanced biological aging.
“The results are interesting and add to existing evidence in North America and Europe that factors such as stress and low socioeconomic status are related to accelerated aging,” Steptoe said.
But, he added, isolation and loneliness are unlikely to actually be worse health risk factors than smoking, although the study only looked at data collected at one point in time.
“It will be important in the future to test whether these predictions are met by repeat testing over several years,” he concluded.
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