Act Young To Live Long

People often think I look younger than I am; I usually quip that is because I cultivate an aura of irresponsibility. Turns out, I may actually live longer because I look and act younger. Apparently, thinking of yourself as younger actually makes you live longer:

First, women who think they look younger after having their hair colored/cut show a decrease in blood pressure and appear younger in photographs (in which their hair is cropped out) to independent raters. Second, clothing is an age-related cue. Uniforms eliminate these age-related cues: Those who wear work uniforms have lower morbidity than do those who earn the same amount of money and do not wear work uniforms. Third, baldness cues old age. Men who bald prematurely see an older self and therefore age faster: Prematurely bald men have an excess risk of getting prostate cancer and coronary heart disease than do men who do not prematurely bald. Fourth, women who bear children later in life are surrounded by younger age-related cues: Older mothers have a longer life expectancy than do women who bear children earlier in life. Last, large spousal age differences result in age-incongruent cues: Younger spouses live shorter lives and older spouses live longer lives than do controls. (more)

The paper speculates that this might contribute to rising lifespans – are we overall healthier today because overall we look and act younger than our ancestors? More quotes:

People who earn less than $24,916 per year and who wear work uniforms (e.g., waiters, waitresses) tend to have poorer health (higher morbidity) than do people who earn less than $24,916 per year and who do not wear work uniforms (e.g., street and door-to-door sales workers). …. Individuals who earned more than $24,916 per year and who did not wear work uniforms (e.g., engineers) had poorer health than did their uniformed counterparts (e.g., chemists). … People of low socioeconomic status who wear uniforms may experience less job control (as rated by the employee) than those who do not wear uniforms. Wearing a uniform may be seen as a way of being controlled, which may override any effect the age cue could or could not have. In contrast, uniforms worn by people with higher earning potential may be seen more as a status symbol (e.g., doctors) compared with uniforms worn by people with lower incomes (e.g., janitors). …

The amount of progression of baldness was associated with coronary heart occurrence (risk rate = 2.4), coronary heart disease mortality (risk = 3.8), and all-cause mortality (risk = 2.4). … The optimal age at first birth for mothers’ long-run health occurs about … the age of 34 years. … Representing fluctuation from the base rate of 100, the [standard mortality ratio] was only 84 for wives with husbands 4–14 years younger, whereas it was 125 for women married to older men up to 14 years their senior. …

People are getting married and having children later, and more adults are going into higher education. Therefore, age norms are starting to change or are, at least, extending in accordance with societal trends. These changes may lead to changes in age-related cues, which may, in turn, affect health outcomes.

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