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People who feel younger at heart live longer

Story highlights

  • Research found people who felt younger than their age lived longer than those who felt their age or older
  • Scientists don't know what the link is the causes the effect
  • Other studies show that optimism and conscientiousness helps people live longer

(CNN)Go ahead lie about your age. It may be the very thing that helps you live a longer life.

If those fibbers truly believe that they are younger than what it says on their birth certificate, a new study shows they are among a group of people who have a lower death rate.
    That's compared with those who felt their age or who even feel older than their years.
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    The new research letter is published in JAMA Internal Medicine online.
    The study looked at data from from 6,489 people with an average age of 65.8 years who reported that they felt a little less than 10 years younger. What's interesting is most people in the study didn't feel like their actual age. Most said they felt about three years younger. Only a tiny percent, some 4.8%, felt at least a year older than their actual age.
    When University College London researchers followed up on these people over the next eight years, the scientists found only a little over 14% of those who felt younger than their years had died. That was compared with the more than 24% of the people who reported feeling older or feeling their age who had died. Some 18% of the people who felt like their chronological age died in that same time period.
    The researchers say they want to better understand what made the difference with this group.
    "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," the study concludes. "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."
    Dr. Sharon Bergquist, a physician and assistant professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine who specializes in healthy aging, isn't surprised by the results.
    "Research is showing us that personality can so be tied to your destiny," Bergquist said.
    New research into the link between personality and aging finds that there are two main traits that seem to help people live a longer life: conscientiousness and optimism.
    People who have both traits may have more of a will to do the right thing to live a healthy lifestyle that can keep them healthy long into old age.
    "Aging well can certainly become a self-fulfilling prophecy," she said.