Neurotic People Feel Older, Research Suggests

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Neurotic People Feel Older, Research Suggests

Our subjective age does not always correspond to our chronological age. Apparently, this difference increases as we get older. In fact, the closer a person is to old age, the greater the distance between the age they are and the age they perceive themselves to be.

We all have a chronological age, but we also have a subjective age. The first is our ‘real age’ and corresponds to the time since our birth. The second is a bit broader and imprecise. It is about how young we feel compared to our chronological age.

Neurotic People Feel Older, Research Suggests
Existing data suggest a close relationship between subjective age and personality. Indeed, a study conducted in 2021 and published in Psychology and Aging in 2022 confirms this fact.
This study also suggested that the more neurotic a person is, the greater their feelings of being old. This applies to people of all ages. Therefore, there are cases where even an extremely young person feels older depending on their experiences or personal tendencies.
“Old age is really something to look forward to. People have more fun and are at peace with who they are. I would love everyone to say their age every year and celebrate.”  -Tracey Grendon-

A study on personality and subjective age 

Scientists studying the relationship between personality and subjective age used data from five studies. These were the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, the British Longitudinal Study of Ageing, the United States Midlife Study, the Health and Retirement Study and the National Health and Aging Trends Study.
The researchers selected a sample of these studies. They analyzed the participants using the personality model known as the Big Five.
This model synthesizes personality traits into five categories: extraversion, openness, agreeableness, conscientiousness and neuroticism. Based on available data on these five categories, a total of 30,000 participants were analyzed.
Initially, only sociodemographic information was taken into account. However, after 4 to 20 years, this information was cross-referenced with data on personality traits and subjective age. The mean chronological age of the participants was between 46.9 and 78.9 years.

Study results

Participants had to answer questions about how old they felt and how old they perceived themselves to be. The results showed that the most neurotic people were also those who felt the oldest in relation to their chronological age. In contrast, those who were less neurotic felt younger and more fulfilled.
Subjective age was examined through a factor considered critical: health. The most neurotic people perceived themselves as having more functional limitations in their daily lives. They also felt that their health was deteriorating, engaging in less physical activity and experiencing more depressive symptoms.
But the researchers cautioned that the findings are by no means conclusive. They also did not include people outside the United States, although a fairly large sample was considered. Nor did it examine personality traits in great depth. Therefore, a close link between subjective age and personality cannot be assumed.

Other findings

In 2018, a group of South Korean scientists conducted a study on subjective age. In this study, the brains of 68 healthy older adults were analyzed. Those who said they felt younger showed more density in their gray matter. They also showed less deterioration associated with chronological age.
In this case, scientists could not determine which came first: Did good health lead to a lower subjective age or did the perception of feeling younger make them feel healthier? At the moment, there is no answer to this question.
Psychologist David Weiss from the University of Leipzig (Germany) believes that subjective age only exists in societies that worship youth and foster negative stereotypes about old age. In fact, in his experience, people from non-Western cultures do not even understand the question “How old do you feel?”.
Either way, scientists seem to agree that people age differently and that this affects their vitality. There is no doubt that those with healthy habits stay active longer. Perhaps this is what makes the difference


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