Loneliness and unhappiness can accelerate aging faster than smoking

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Researchers have found that certain psychological issues – such as hopelessness, unhappiness and loneliness – can increase a person’s biological age more than smoking. Jesse Morrow/Getty Images
  • Medical history, lifestyle and genetics all play a large role in how quickly a person ages.
  • Recently, researchers have found that a person’s mental health is also a risk factor for accelerated aging.
  • According to the researchers, certain psychological problems – such as hopelessness, unhappiness and loneliness – increase a person’s biological age more than smoking.

Aging is a natural life process that everyone experiences.

However, the process is not always the same for everyone. Factors such as your medical history, lifestyle, and genetics can play a big role in what happens to your mind and body as you age.

For example, previous research shows smoking, dietand stress accelerate biological aging.

Today, researchers from Deep Longevity Limited in Hong Kong, People’s Republic of China, found evidence to suggest that a person’s mental health affects aging just as much as physical health.

Researchers have found that when certain psychological states are combined, it can increase a person’s biological age more than smoking.

This study has just been published in the journal Aging.

According to the study’s lead author, Fedor Galkin, director of scientific business development at Deep Longevity Limited in Hong Kong, the main objective of this study was to show that people can improve their physical health by targeting their mental health. .

“To be more specific, low-level aging processes can be affected by your emotional state,” Galkin said. Medical News Today.

Galkin said the impact of psychology on a person’s biological age is an understudied topic due to scientific reductionism.

“In the (20th) century, scientific reductionism took hold in virtually all areas of science,” he explained. “It was the case in biology – the organism consists of cells and molecules, so if we understand the molecules, we can understand the organism. This restricted our perspective in many ways. The study of aging is an example. Aging is a multi-faceted phenomenon with social and (economic)1 components, but in biology it is common to study it in a much narrower sense.

Galkin said there are studies that link the psychology of aging to its molecular manifestations, but not that many.

“We know that childhood trauma or Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) accelerated epigenetic aging(in the same way psychological stress. Since there is a connection, we hypothesize that the physiological (low-level) rate of aging can be manipulated using (high-level) psychological therapies. That’s why we built FuturSelf.AI, to provide a backbone to our new hybrid anti-aging approach.

– Fedor Galkin, lead author of the study

To study the impact of mental health on aging, Galkin and his team developed an in-depth aging clock.

A aging clock is a statistical model that measures a person’s biological age instead of their chronological age. To do this, an aging clock uses blood, genetic and DNA tests to measure a person’s biological rate of aging.

The researchers used the aging clock they developed to measure the effect of physical and mental health factors on the aging of nearly 12,000 Chinese adults from the CHARLS dataset.

Smoking was the main physical factor.

Mental health issues included depression, sleep problems, loneliness, feelings of sadness, and rarely hope. Additionally, the researchers included a person’s social status – married, widowed, and/or living in a rural area.

After analyzing the data, the researchers found that all of the factors included in the analysis had a significant impact on the rate of aging. The three largest impacts were from smoking (acceleration in the rate of aging by 1.25 years), being currently married (acceleration in the rate of aging by 0.59 years), and sleep problems (acceleration in the rate of aging by 0.59 years). aging of 0.44 years).

The researchers also found that when combined, the eight psychological variables included in their study accelerated a person’s aging by 1.65 years, a higher rate than smoking.

Galkin said this study draws attention to the overlooked benefits of maintaining good mental health.

“Quite often, mental health therapies are thought to just ‘make you feel good,’ but according to our study, they can tangibly extend your life,” Galkin said.

“If brought to the attention of (governments) or large organizations with millions of customers, using studies such as ours to create new policies can add eons of years of human life to the global economy. I hope that this new line of reasoning – deeply developed by Sinclair in his (study) – will persuade these larger entities to pay more attention to the areas of mental health and longevity.

Medical News Today also spoke about this study with Dr. Stella Panos, a neuropsychologist and director of neuropsychology at the Pacific Neuroscience Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, who was not involved in this study. She said there are several reasons why a person’s mental health can impact their rate of aging.

“Mental health issues such as depression (and) anxiety can impact lifestyle,” Dr. Panos explained.

“People can be a bit more sedentary, not dealing with health factors like they would if they weren’t depressed or anxious. If someone is stressed, it can lead to poor health outcomes in general just because of their biology, and it increases [the] risk of general health problems later in life.

“The other possibility would be the reverse. For [many] patients who have neurological diseases or other chronic conditions, there are high rates of depression, anxiety, and those types of mental health issues. We used to think of it as a response to the condition, like a situational response, but there’s actually a lot of research that suggests there’s a biological component to it. For example, when people have a head injury, one of the most common factors is depression. And they’ve seen it in various studies where they’ve shown there’s more likely a biological component as well.

– Dr. Stella Panos, neuropsychologist

If a person is experiencing mental health issues like feeling unhappy, lonely, or depressed, Dr. Panos suggests talking about them with other people, including their doctor and a mental health professional.

“I think it should be an open conversation,” she explained. “I think this is a time when people are more comfortable discussing mental health issues.”

Dr. Panos recommended setting small goals when looking to make changes to your mental health. “When people feel like that, it’s really hard to make a change — it can feel really overwhelming,” she explained.

“I always tell people (to) set a very small goal, a reasonable goal that you can reach and then you can increase it over time. So just reach out to a friend and then go from there.

Here are some practical tips for taking care of your mental health:

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