To make sure you never miss out on your favourite NEW stories, we're happy to send you some reminders

Click 'OK' then 'Allow' to enable notifications

Scientists end debate on whether age is biological or psychological

Scientists end debate on whether age is biological or psychological

Are you as old as you feel? Or are you as old as the number of years you've biologically lived?

Scientists have debated for years whether our age is defined by our bodies or our brains and now there may be a clearer answer.

You may feel 17 but actually be 50, or you may be 23 like me and actually feel like you have the mind of 80-year-old. And it turns out age can actually be considered in both ways, leaving scientists conflicted for years.

The question is, are you as old as the number of years your body has lived on the planet - chronological/ biological age - or are you as old as you feel - subjective age? And how do the two affect one another?

A study by the European Psychiatric Association, published on EurekAlert! earlier this year in March, reveals the 'bodies of people with mental illness are biologically older than their actual age'.

For example, if you've been diagnosed with conditions such as depression or anxiety - and have had it all your life - your body may medically show signs its older than it technically is.

The study incorporated 110,780 participants in the UK Biobank, with Professor Cathryn Lewis and Dr Julian Mutz from King's College London looking at the 168 different types of blood metabolites and seeing how they compared to one another based on if the individual had a mental health condition or not.

Dr Mutz explained: "We found that, on average, those who had a lifetime history of mental illness had a metabolite profile which implied they were older than their actual age.

"For example, people with bipolar disorder had blood markers indicating that they were around two years older than their chronological age.

"Our findings indicate that the bodies of people with mental health problems tend to be older than would be expected for an individual their age.

"This may not explain all the difference in health and life expectancy between those with mental health problems and the general population, but it does mean that accelerated biological ageing may be an important factor."

How old do you feel compared to your biological age?
Pexels/ Anna Shvets

Basically, your mental health, alongside external factors other than just your body ageing naturally year after year - such as smoking, doing regular exercise, drinking alcohol and what you eat - can all play a factor in you ageing, whether that be speeding or slowing down the process.

And despite you appearing fairly young and healthy, your brain could undergo certain changes which make you 'age' quicker psychologically, for example, with dementia. Although, brain conditions which appear more mental health-affecting do also affect your physical health too.

So, what do scientists think? Is age defined more psychologically or biologically?

Well, ultimately, it's a bit of both. Our bodies will all age naturally biologically, but we may feel older or younger despite this, and the March 2023 study shows mental health can play a significant role in shortening someone's biological timeframe and so it should really be looked after just as much as our physical health.

Remember, if your mental health has taken a hit, it's just as important to take a sick day at work for it as it is when you've physically injured yourself too.

Featured Image Credit: Getty Stock Images

Topics: Health, Science, Mental Health