Despite the initial freakout you might have upon finding your first gray hair ("When did I get so old?!?"), aging is nothing to lose sleep over. Newsflash: It's part of life. But constantly obsessing over getting older and the number of grays you get isn't just figuratively driving you crazy—it's actually speeding up your aging process, according to a new study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences. Seriously.
The findings, which related to physical and mental health over time, were part of the Irish Longitudinal Study on Aging, at Trinity College in Dublin. As part of the study, researchers followed the aging process of over 4,000 adults and they found a few interesting connections between how each individual perceived their aging process and their actual physical and mental health outcomes.
First, they found that adults who had negative attitudes about aging had measurably slower walking speeds and worse cognitive abilities two years after compared the first assessment compared to the adults who viewed aging in a positive light. Furthermore, this difference stayed consistent even after the participants' medications, health changes, life circumstances, and even fluctuating mood swings had been accounted for. (Psst... These Anti-Aging Solutions That Have Nothing to Do with Products or Surgery.)
Finally, the researchers discovered that having a good attitude about getting on in years had a particularly strong effect on how certain health conditions interact—especially how one's physical condition affects their cognitive condition. Even physically frail participants who managed to maintain an upbeat attitude about aging had better cognitive abilities than their Negative Nancy peers. Maybe the Fountain of Youth is all in your attitude.
So what does this mean for those of us still decades away from the golden years? Now is the time to start establishing a healthy attitude towards aging—your elderly self will thank you. (Did you know that scientists may have discovered a drug with anti-aging properties?)