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Why feeling old is dangerous

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If you feel old, you should seriously consider trying to feel young before you end up in the hospital

A new study seems to confirm every cliché about “age being just a number,” finding that those who report feeling old are much more likely to be hospitalized than those of the same (biological) age who report feeling younger. 

A group of researchers at Florida State University analyzed data from three studies that spanned from 1995 to 2013. Those in the study had ages that ranged from 24 to 102. 

Those who said they felt older than their actual age were 10 percent to 25 percent more likely to be hospitalized in the next two to 10 years. 

“Feeling older is associated with poorer physical and mental health, but also with physiological impairments that may result in illness and health service use over time,” said Dr. Angela Sutin, one of the study co-authors in a press release from the American Psychological Association. 

Fellow co-author, Dr. Antonio Terracciano, added that “individuals with an older subjective age are more likely to be sedentary and to experience faster cognitive decline, all of which may precipitate a hospital stay.” 

Depression also correlated strongly with an older “subjective age,” as the study referred to it. 

What the study did not show was that feeling old precedes sickness. Those who feel old might feel that way because they are already dealing with ailments characteristic of old age. 

But the researchers suggest that asking people how old they feel could be a valuable tool in identifying those most vulnerable to sickness and hospitalization in the near-term. 

“People who feel older may benefit from standard health treatments — for example through physical activity and exercise programs — which may reduce their risk of depression and chronic disease, and ultimately their hospitalization risk,” said Dr. Yannick Stephan, the study’s lead author. 

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