Feelings of sadness and loneliness have been found to be capable of biologically aging someone by up to 1.65 years.
In comparison, smoking can add up to 1.25 years and suffering from restless sleep could add 0.44 years, according to a new study.
There are two different ages for humans: chronological age and biological age. Chronological age is the one we are all aware of, the amount of years we have been alive. Biological age is a measurement based on biomarkers which depends on health and lifestyle.
A person’s psychological state can have an impact on their biological age and accelerate it, with a higher biological age increasing the likelihood of health problems.
The new study on aging came from Deep Longevity, a Hong Kong-based company, the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Stanford University.
The US and Chinese scientists measured the significant effects of loneliness, restless sleep, or feelings of unhappiness on the pace of aging. They developed a “deep learning aging clock” to measure this, using blood test and biometric data from a group of Chinese adults.
As you would expect, accelerated aging was found in people who have a history of stroke, liver and lung diseases, and smokers but it was also found in people in vulnerable mental states.
The authors concluded that “the psychological component should not be ignored in aging studies due to its significant impact on biological age”.
“Mental and psychosocial states are some of the most robust predictors of health outcomes and quality of life, yet they have largely been omitted from modern healthcare,” said Manuel Faria from Stanford University.
The authors said their study demonstrates the importance of not underestimating mental health.
“For decades, people have thought that they can maintain their well-being – and organisations think that they can increase their productivity – by working on the biological health of themselves and their employees, such as providing medical checkups,” said one of the authors, Helene Fung of the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
“Yet, our findings suggest that working on psychological factors, such as maintaining a positive mood, can be equally important.”