Research shows that being depressed or lonely can speed up the aging process faster than smoking or certain diseases. An individual’s “biological age” is based on the aging of the body’s functions, influenced by genetics, lifestyle, and other factors. Studies previously suggested that the higher the biological age, the higher the risk of various diseases and death.
Researchers created a digital model of aging, revealing the importance of psychological health. “Your body and soul are connected – this is our main message,” said Fedor Galkin, a co-author of the study and lead scientist at the Hong Kong startup Deep Longevity. The “aging clock” is based on data collected from 4,846 adults in 2015. This included 16 blood biomarkers, including cholesterol and glucose levels, participants’ sex, BP, BMI, and measures of lung function.
Model of Aging
The team compared the chronological age of individuals predicted by the model with their actual age. The results suggested a difference of almost 5.7 years over or under the participant’s actual age. The team found that when the model was applied to CHARLS data from a further 2,617 Chinese adults with aging-associated diseases – those with a history of stroke, liver disease, and lung conditions were predicted to be older than 4,451 healthy adults matched to them by chronological age, sex, and living area. The average effect of these conditions didn’t add more than 18 months to the predicted age.
“We demonstrate that psychological factors, such as feeling unhappy or being lonely, add up to 1.65 years to one’s biological age,” they wrote. Galkin stated that the figure is an estimate. However, the study highlighted the importance of the psychological state in how fast we age. “Taking care of your psychological health is the greatest contributor you can have to slow down your pace of aging,” he said.
Furthermore, the team reported that the individuals who smoked were predicted to be 15 months older than their non-smoking peers. Additionally, being married reduces biological age by around seven months. People living in rural areas are almost five months older than their urban peers.