It’s Healthy to Feel Younger Than Your Age

Worthy of note is a research paper published in JAMA Internal Medicine in December 2014. The study, performed by Isla Rippon and Professor Andrew Steptoe of University College London (UCL) Epidemiology & Public Health, examined the relationship between self-perceived age and mortality in a long-term study of aging in Britain.

The results of the study were noteworthy and downright exhilarating, concluding that “older people (the 6,489 individuals studied had a chronological age averaging 65.8 years) who felt three or more years younger than their chronological age had a lower death rate compared with those who felt their age or who felt more than one year older than their actual age,” according to the press release from UCL. Professor Steptoe is quoted by CBS News: “People who felt younger than their real age were more likely to survive over the next eight years or so compared to those who felt older.”

The UCL press release reports that the “mechanisms underlying these associations” merit further investigation:  “Possibilities include a broader set of health behaviours 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 behaviours and attitudes toward ageing.”

Sadly, some journalists have taken this study as a green light for lying about one’s age. The study does not suggest, however, as published in O, the Oprah Magazine, that “Shaving a few years off your age may actually help you live longer,” or, as published by CNN:  “Go ahead lie about your age. It may be the very thing that helps you live a longer life.”

Feeling younger than one’s age is very different from lying about one’s age. And indeed, about two-thirds of the individuals studied by UCL met the criterion of feeling three of more years younger than their actual age (the average self-perceived age was about 57).

I very much enjoy the surprised expressions on people’s faces when I tell them my actual age. Isn’t that much preferable to pretending I’m, say, 10 or 15 or even just three years younger?  What’s the point of that?  I feel significantly younger than my chronological age.

Indeed, I would go so far as to say that living with a rather large whopper of a lie about one’s age is likely to cause additional stress, shortening one’s life. Whether and when there will be a medical study on that issue remains to be seen.

I say embrace your real age — revel in it, with all the experiences and adventures of your life.

Oh yes, and, in case you’re wondering, as in the last line from one of my favorite movies of all time, Murphy’s Romance, let me conclude by saying, “I’m  sixty.”

A Broader View of Beauty

Being an outlier when it comes to beauty, as someone far too short and wide to meet the standards of classic loveliness, I have always taken an expansive view of what constitutes attractiveness. The world of fashion has gradually gone farther and farther down the path of embracing the quirky, from the French concept of jolie laide (“pretty/ugly”) to such features as gaps between front teeth and outsize feet.

0515 Tess Holliday size 22 plus size model REV

The June 1, 2015 issue of People magazine (“The 2015 Body Issue”) announces on its cover “The World’s First Size 22 Supermodel!” and adds:  “From Bullied Teen to Plus-Size Star:  Tess Holliday on her traumatic childhood and inspiring journey: ‘You can be beautiful regardless of your size.’”

With reportedly over 800,000 likes on Facebook and almost 700,000 followers on Instagram, Holliday caught the eye of the U.K.’s MILK Management and became, at size 22, “the largest model ever to sign with a major agency.” People continues:  “At 5’5″ and 280 lbs., the heavily tattooed Holliday is a pinup for a brand-new era: body-positive, outspoken, social-media-savvy and no one’s idea of a cookie-cutter mannequin.” Noting other plus-size models currently making waves, including Candice Huffine, Denise Bidot, Ashley Graham, and Robyn Lawley, the magazine poses the question: “Maybe the fashion industry has finally realized that women wearing size 14 and up account for 67 percent of the American population?”

0515 Not-So-Real Housewives of Orange County plastic surgery Botox REV

Without comment, the same issue of People includes a one-page spread on the “Not-So-Real Housewives” of Orange County, who “dish about their plastic surgery and Botox.” Not a mention of liposuction appears in the article although the most senior of the five women reports having had a tummy tuck more than 15 years ago. Three of the five women in the article admit to having breast augmentation, three have had nose jobs, two have had “chin jobs,” one tried a lip injection, and all five have had Botox injections. 51-year-old Shannon Beador comments that she wants her three daughters (ages 10-13) “to grow up loving their bodies. I don’t want them to think that they’re going to have to change anything.”

Overly Photoshopped images seem more and more passé as consumers protest when advertisers go too far in correcting perceived flaws or in striving for an unnatural level of perfection. Has there finally been a sea change in appreciating the beauty in every individual, whatever her size?