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You really are only as old as you feel – sort of

Researchers are telling people to act their subjective age and tell their GP about it.

The concept of subjective age and its use in managing the wellbeing of older generations is being explored by Australian and US researchers. The team has developed a model for measuring age that takes into account social, mental and biological factors.

So far, the team has found that only about 1 per cent of people feel their actual age and the average person feels about 13.5 years younger than their chronological age.

Dr Bruce Perrott, a senior lecturer in marketing with the Business School at the University of Technology, Sydney, said: “We see this [model] becoming a great aid in healthcare, as a diagnostic tool that can assist a move away from reparative medicine to rejuvenative medicine.”

If the model reveals weakness in any of the elements looked at, steps could then be taken to improve that area of life.

Perrott said many healthcare systems will strain to keep up with the rise in numbers of people in older age brackets but added: “Insights into subjective age have the potential to help us improve quality of life for an ageing population and ease that burden.”

Researchers from the University of Massachusetts said studies have shown that lowering subjective age improves quality of life, reducing health issues and even adding to actual lifespan. The university’s professor Charles Schewe said: “In one longitudinal study, it was shown to add 7.5 years to life.”

A subjective ageing index has been tested in the US and Perrott plans to replicate it in Australia.

Perrott drew attention to the concept of self-balancing behaviour. This describes older people who lose something compensating by doing something else that makes them feel younger.

“It’s been observed – though not empirically proven – that people considered by others to be ageing successfully tend to take up as many activities as they give up,” Perrott said.

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