A new study shows that people who frequently complain about getting older or say they feel older than other people their age are more likely to require hospitalization than their peers. New scientific research shows that people who feel older than their peers wind up in the hospital more often as they age regardless of their actual age or other demographic factors, according to an article published Saturday in ScienceDaily.
“How old you feel matters. Previous research has shown it can affect your well-being and other health-related factors and, now we know it can predict your likelihood of ending up in the hospital,” said the study’s lead author, Yannick Stephan, PhD, of the University of Montpellier in France. The research, which comprised more than 10,000 adults across the U.S., was initially published in the journal Health Psychology.
Typically, similar studies showed an association between health-related issues and subjective age but the new study was the first to examine whether consciously feeling older than your peers puts one at increased risk of illnesses that require hospitalization. The study finds people who subjectively feel older than others their age were 10 to 25 percent more likely to end up hospitalized over the next 2 to 10 years. Researchers controlled subjects for age, gender, race and education and found that the increase was almost identical in all three categorical samples.
Findings revealed that individuals who suffer from depression and poor mental health expressed that they feel older than their years which resulted in illness and an increased need for health services over time, according to Sutin.
Data in the study was drawn from participants of Midlife in the United States Survey, the Health and Retirement Study and the National Health and Aging Trends Study. In each of the three samples, the subjective age of those surveyed was determined by researchers asking each participant how old he or she felt as the study commenced. Participants were also asked to provide information about previously diagnosed health conditions (i.e., high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, lung disease, heart condition, stroke, osteoporosis or arthritis). Additionally, subjects answered a questionnaire designed to recognize symptoms of depression. The study’s participants were contacted for follow-up periods over the 10 year study to determine if they had been hospitalized for any reason over the last year in two of the samples or over the last two years in the other.
“In addition, 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” said Terracciano.
“Taken as a whole, this study suggests that subjective age, along with demographic, cognitive, behavioral and health-related factors, could be a valuable tool to help identify individuals at risk of future hospitalization,” said Stephan. “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.”
Summarizing, the study revealed that poor health contributes to people feeling older than their peers, but also that feeling old is not limited to people who endure poor health. Depression and other mental attitudes and conditions contribute to “feeling old” and can lead to real health issues and increased risk of hospitalization.