Feeling young could mean your brain is younger

A study in South Korea is the first to find a link between subjective age and brain aging

Feeling younger than you actually are may indicate that your brain is aging more slowly, a new study in South Korea finds.

Subjective age (SA), refers to how individuals experience themselves as younger or older than their actual age. The recent South Korean study finds that such feelings may reflect brain aging, Medical Xpress reports. 

With the help of MRI brain scans, researchers found that elderly people who feel younger than their age show fewer signs of brain aging, compared with those who feel their age or older than their age. The results suggest also that elderly people who feel older than their age should consider caring for their brain health.


A link between subjective age and brain aging

This study is the first to find a link between subjective age and brain aging. Results were published in journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

Why do some people feel younger or older than their real age?",  asks Dr. Jeanyung Chey of Seoul National University in Korea. "Some possibilities include depressive states, personality differences or physical health. However, no-one had investigated brain aging processes as a possible reason for differences in subjective age."


Chey and her colleagues applied recently developed techniques to investigate the link between subjective age and brain aging. 68 healthy older adults aged 59 – 84 years underwent  magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. T1-weighted brain images of open-access datasets were utilized to construct a model for age prediction. 


The participants also completed a survey, which included questions on whether they felt older or younger than their age and questions assessing their cognitive abilities and perceptions of their overall health.


The study's results


People who felt younger than their age were more likely to score higher on a memory test, considered their health to be better and were less likely to report depressive symptoms. Most omportant, the researchers found that people who feel younger have the structural characteristics of a younger brain.  

But at present the researchers do not know for sure if these brain characteristics are directly responsible for subjective age and will need to carry out long-term studies to understand this link further. Further studies will be needed to look more deeply in the matter.