By Mark Waghorn via SWNS
Being unhappy speeds up aging more than smoking, making your body more than a year and a half older, according to new research with Stanford University.
It damages the body's biological clock - raising the risk of Alzheimer's, diabetes, heart disease and other illnesses.
Lead author Dr. Fedor Galkin said: "Aging acceleration was detected in people with a history of stroke, liver and lung diseases, smokers, and most interestingly, people in a vulnerable mental state.
"In fact, feeling hopeless, unhappy, and lonely was shown to increase one's biological age more than smoking."
The findings are based on the first 'aging clock' of its kind - trained and verified with blood and biometric data from almost 12,000 Chinese adults.
Dr. Galkin said: "We demonstrate psychological factors, such as feeling
unhappy or being lonely, add up to one year and eight months to one's biological age.
"The aggregate effect exceeds the effects of biological sex, living area and marital and smoking status.
"We conclude the psychological component should not be ignored in aging studies due to its significant impact on biological age."
The international team's tool bridges the gap between the concepts of biological and psychological aging.
Molecular damage accumulates and contributes to the development of frailty and serious diseases.
In some people these processes are more intense, a condition commonly referred to as accelerated aging.
Dr. Galkin, of start-up Deep Longevity Limited, Hong Kong, said: "Fortunately, the increased pace may be detected before its disastrous consequences manifest by using 'aging clocks.'
"Such digital models can also be used to derive anti-aging therapies on individual and population levels."
Researchers advise that any treatments need to focus on mental as much as physical health.
They measured the effects of being lonely, having restless sleep, or feeling unhappy on the pace of aging - and found it to be significant.
Dr. Galkin said: "The psychological aspect of aging should not be neglected either in research or in practical anti-aging applications."
Other factors linked to aging acceleration include being single and living in a rural area - due to the low availability of medical services.
Corresponding author Manuel Faria, a neuroscientist at Stanford University, California, said: "Mental and psychosocial states are some of the most robust predictors of health outcomes - and quality of life - yet they have largely been omitted from modern healthcare."
Last month a worldwide study found loneliness increases the risk of cardiovascular disease by almost a third.
Socially isolated individuals were about 30 percent more likely to suffer a stroke or heart attack - and death from either.
A Harvard University analysis described 18 to 22-year-olds dubbed 'Gen Z' as the "loneliest generation."
Increased isolation among younger adults has been blamed on higher social media use and less engagement in meaningful face-to-face activities.
Data also suggests loneliness increased during the pandemic Young adults aged 18 to 25, older adults, women and low-income individuals were most affected.
Some populations are more vulnerable to social isolation and loneliness such as children and young adults and those from racial and ethnic minority groups.
Others include the disabled, those living in rural and under-resourced communities and people with limited access to technology and internet service.
Co-author Dr. Alex Zhavoronkov, CEO of Insilico Medicine, Hong Kong, said the aging clock provides a course of action to "slow down or even reverse psychological aging on a national scale."
Earlier this year, Deep Longevity released an AI-guided mental health web service FuturSelf.AI.
It offers a free assessment that provides a comprehensive report on a user's psychological age as well as current and future mental well-being.
Deepankar Nayak, CEO of Deep Longevity, said: "FuturSelf.AI, in combination with the study of older Chinese adults, positions Deep Longevity at the forefront of biogerontological research."
The company developed Longevity as a Service (LaaS) to integrate multiple biomarkers dubbed 'deep aging clocks' to provide a universal multi-factorial measurement.
The study is in the journal Aging-US.
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