Why Subjective Age Matters—And How To Lower That Number

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If you looked at my birth certificate, you’d see that I’m 35 years old as I write this. But I feel closer to 30 years old.

And it turns out that how old you feel—what’s referred to as your subjective age—is tied to health and longevity.

“Numerous findings show that people who feel younger than their chronological age are healthier and also live longer,” per Anna E. Kornadt, Ph.D., professor in the department of behavioral and cognitive sciences at the University of Luxembourg.

 

Meet the expert: Anna E. Kornadt, Ph.D., is a professor in the department of behavioral and cognitive sciences at the University of Luxembourg. Shoma Datta-Thomas, MD is Modern Age’s Head of Wellness.

While some research has focused on how subjective age impacts older populations, feeling younger can benefit pretty much anyone over the age of 28. (Interestingly, feeling older when you’re in your 20’s can be an indicator for psychological maturity, per Dr. Kornadt, and a good thing!)

Luckily, you age in reverse, subjectively speaking. Keep reading for everything you need to know about subjective age, plus expert tips for feeling like a youth.

A Subjectively Aging Population

There are many factors that play into your subjective age, such as stress levels, feeling healthy (or not), and social comparisons (read: scrolling through the ‘gram).

Another component: “Look age,” aka the age you see yourself as when you look in the mirror—or stare at yourself on Zoom. “I am not aware of concrete empirical data on this, but indeed, the perceptions of one’s body (by oneself and by others) play an important role for subjective age,” Dr. Kornadt says.

And, unfortunately, all of those video calls we took during the pandemic (and possibly still today) may have left us feeling like we look older than we actually are. In fact, that fixation on our own features could be one reason there’s been an increase in cosmetic procedures since the start of the pandemic, according to a survey by the American Association of Plastic Surgeons.

“I do not have data on how the pandemic affected younger people’s subjective age, but being reminded of one’s (potentially changing) looks every day in conference calls might have an impact on how old they feel,” Dr. Kornadt says.

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How To (Subjectively) Age In Reverse

“For most people, it’s hard to answer the question, ‘How old do you feel?’” says longevity clinic Modern Age’s Head of Wellness, Shoma Datta-Thomas, MD.

And that’s where Modern Age’s subjective age assessment (that looks at your visible age, psychological age, and lifestyle age) comes into play. “This assessment lays the foundation for our treatment plans so our team of clinicians can help choose treatments based on what’s best to boost your longevity.”

Here are some sample questions that might get you thinking about your own number:

  • How healthy is your diet on a scale of 1 to 5?
  • How would you rate your overall health condition today on a scale of 1 to 5?
  • Have you ever been told by a doctor that you have high blood pressure?
  • Over the last two weeks, how often have you felt tired or lacked energy?
  • Over the last two weeks, how often have you had difficulty sleeping?
  • Looking ahead ten years, how healthy do you expect to be?

Now, let’s get to work on feeling 25 again.

Look on the bright side.

Both experts agree that having a positive and optimistic outlook is the key to a lower subjective age.

“Having a lower subjective age really is all about having a positive outlook on how you are navigating this journey,” says Dr. Datta-Thomas. “A positive approach and perception toward aging can also improve quality of life.”

Control the controllables.

Dr. Datta-Thomas and Dr. Kornadt both also emphasized the link between a lower subjective age and feeling that your actions are under your own control.

“People who have a low subjective age typically have a strong sense of agency in their lives,” says Dr. Datta-Thomas. “For example, they understand that making small steps to improve [their] sleep, stress levels, and mental health can impact [their] overall health, inside and out.”

Look younger, feel younger.

“Being in control of one’s appearance and looking youthful can be a factor contributing to a younger subjective age,” says Dr. Kornadt, who cautions not to take this too far (think: dressing like your 16-year-old cousin).

My personal interpretation of this: Consider investing in really great skincare products, talking to your dermatologist about giving injectables a go if you’ve been on the fence, or simply wearing that colorful strappy dress you bought on vacation instead of your go-to groutfit.

Manage stress.

“Stress seems to be a major contributor to an older subjective age, so reducing stress in daily life might also be an angle that could be used to lower subjective age,” Dr. Kornadt explains.

That’s easier said than done, but here are 20 super simple stress hacks to try. Dr. Datta-Thomas adds that at Modern Age, stress is often managed via IV Drip Therapy, “to get essential vitamins into your body.”

Just keep moving.

Physical activity might be one way to lower your subjective age, per Dr. Kornadt. In one study, “physical activity was related to a 30-50% higher likelihood of feeling younger eight to 20 years later.”

The study authors note that could have to do with the fact that people who are active tend to sustain health and “an open psychological disposition” that’s associated with feeling younger.

Fuel your metabolism with protein.

“I also recommend leveraging the power of food as medicine and taking measures to ensure you have a healthy diet,” says Dr. Datta-Thomas. “Energy levels, mood, and skin can be affected by our metabolic health, making it imperative to have a healthy diet to lower your subjective age,” she explains.

In general, though, she recommends upping your protein intake to help support your metabolism.



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