The Science of Lying About Your Age: How Picturing Yourself As Younger May Help You Live Longer
Have you ever lied about your age? Or thought about it?
From trying to look younger to get hired, to wanting to impress the opposite sex, it seems few people are happy with the age they are. But beyond vanity there may be a scientific reason to keep your real age under wraps.
Sure, we’ve all heard the saying “Age is just a number” but most people feel that it’s nobody’s business how old they are. Some avoid the question when asked. Others come straight out with it. But if you knock off a few years because you truly feel younger than what it says on your birth certificate, science says you may live a longer life. That’s compared with those who feel their age or older.
It may sound crazy, but it’s true: people who think of themselves as younger than they are have a lower death rate according to a study by University College London (UCL) published online in JAMA Internal Medicine.
Here’s a bit about the study. UCL researchers invited 6,489 people with an average age of slightly under 66 years to complete questionnaires that asked how they feel about their age. Almost 70% said they felt three or more years younger than their actual age. About 25% had a self-perceived age close to their real age. And about 5% felt more than a year older.
The UCL researchers correlated this data with mortality over the next eight years. Of the people who had felt older, 24% died, versus 18% of those who had felt their age, and 12% who had felt younger. To put it another way, people who felt younger than their actual age had a 50% reduced risk of death, compared to people who felt older.
So there you have it. There appears to be a direct link between how old you feel and how long you live. Although the researchers suggested interesting directions for further study.
“The mechanisms underlying these associations merit further investigation,” the study said. “Possibilities include a broader set of health behaviors than we measured (such as maintaining a healthy weight and adherence to medical advice), and greater resilience, sense of mastery and will to live among those who feel younger than their age. Self-perceived age has the potential to change, so interventions may be possible. Individuals who feel older than their actual age could be targeted with health messages promoting positive health behaviors and attitudes toward aging.”
Besides the UCL team, another group explored how people perceive their age. A survey this year by aesthetic clinic Skin by Lovely, reported by the journal Aesthetics, found that 90% of women say they mentally see themselves as being younger than they actually are by as much as ten years.
Do these studies mean our mind is playing games with us when it comes to aging? In other words, when we feel younger, is the region of our brain that controls aging tricking us into believing we are younger? Is it okay then to lie about our age?
If you feel your age is nobody’s business, and if you feel younger than you are, you’re probably not doing any harm in most cases. But if you’re interviewing for a new job or starting a new relationship (online or in the flesh), it is their business, and nine out of ten times lying will come back to bite you in the ass.
When I was twenty-seven and not yet married, I shaved a couple of years off my age to get the attention of a woman 5 years younger than me. I fantasized about what would happen when I came clean: she would give me the biggest hug and tell me, “No biggie.” But that is not exactly what happened. I learned a lesson back then when things didn’t end well and since that day, I have always been truthful about my age. But that’s me. You may feel differently.
So tell us, have you ever lied about your age? Or wanted to?