Being unhappy or lonely accelerates aging – even more than smoking

HONG KONG- According to new research, being unhappy or experiencing loneliness accelerates the aging process more than smoking. Unhappiness damages the body’s biological clock, increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, heart disease and other illnesses, an international team says.

The team reports detecting accelerated aging in people with a history of stroke, liver and lung disease, smoking, and in people with a vulnerable mental state. Interestingly, feeling hopeless, unhappy and lonely has been shown to be linked to increasing a patient’s biological age more than the harmful impact of smoking.

The findings are based on the first-of-its-kind “aging clock” study, trained and verified with blood and biometric data from nearly 12,000 Chinese adults.

“We show that psychological factors, such as feeling unhappy or being lonely, add up to a year and eight months to a person’s biological age,” says the study’s author. , Dr. Fedor Galkin of startup Deep Longevity Limited, according to a statement from SWNS.

“The overall effect exceeds the effects of biological sex, place of residence and marital status and smoking status. We conclude that the psychological component should not be ignored in studies of aging due to its significant impact on biological age.

Aging clocks can catch the problem early

The international team’s tool bridges the concepts of biological and psychological aging. It shows that mental health has a greater effect on the rate of aging compared to a number of health conditions and lifestyle habits. Molecular damage accumulates and contributes to the development of serious fragilities and diseases. In some people, these processes are more intense – a condition scientists call accelerated aging.

Fortunately, researchers say that accelerated aging is detectable by modern science before it has disastrous consequences. These “aging clocks” can also help create anti-aging therapies at individual and large-scale levels. However, all treatments should focus on mental health as much as physical health, the researchers note.

The team measured the effects of being alone, having restless sleep or feeling unhappy on the rate of aging and found it to be significant. Other factors linked to accelerated aging include being single and living in a rural area, due to the low availability of medical services.

“Mental and psychosocial states are among the most robust predictors of health outcomes – and quality of life – yet they have been largely omitted from modern healthcare,” says corresponding author Manuel Faria, a neuroscientist at the Stanford University, in a press release.

Loneliness is a spreading global problem

Last month, a global study found that loneliness increases the risk of cardiovascular disease by almost a third. An analysis from Harvard University has described 18 to 22 year olds (Gen Z) as the “loneliest generation”. The data also suggests that loneliness has increased during the pandemic, with young adults under 25, older adults, women and low-income people feeling the effects the most.

Co-author Dr. Alex Zhavoronkov, CEO of Insilico Medicine, adds that “the clock” provides an action plan to “slow down or even reverse psychological aging nationwide.” Earlier this year, Deep Longevity launched an AI-guided mental health web service called FuturSelf.AI.

It offers a free assessment that provides a comprehensive report on a user’s psychological age as well as their current and future mental well-being.

“FuturSelf.AI, in combination with the study of older Chinese adults, positions Deep Longevity at the forefront of biogerontological research,” said Deepankar Nayak, CEO of Deep Longevity.

The results appear in the journal Aging-United States.

South West News Service writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.

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