Feeling significantly unprepared for being a grownup is, sadly, an unavoidable part of the life of a twentysomething. You might want to hold off on resolving that quarter-life crisis, though, because people who feel younger than their age live longer. I mean, you probably don't want to be that person who insists that she's celebrating her 21st birthday for the 30th time, but people who feel about 10 years younger than their actual age are more likely to keep on keepin' on after their peers. Thank you, science, for giving us yet another argument in favor of embarrassing our future children by regaling their friends with tales of our youthful exploits.
The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, analyzed data from over 6,000 participants with an average age of 65.8, CNN reports. Surprisingly — or not, depending on how recently you've come into contact with someone in the throes of a midlife crisis — the majority of people actually reported that they feel about three years younger than their age. Around a quarter felt their age, and less than five percent felt older than their years. After eight years, researchers at the University College London found that only 14 percent of participants who felt younger died, whereas almost 25 percent of people who felt older had passed away. Yikes!
Researchers also found a link between perceived age and cardiovascular death, although there was no correlation between perceived age and cancer. It's pretty widely agreed upon that your personality affects your health, which led the authors to hypothesize that their results were due to a "broader set of health behaviors... (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." So basically, people who feel younger might do so because they're physically and mentally healthier, which in turn allows them to live longer, or vice versa.
More research will have to be done before anyone can make solid conclusions, but the study is already proving useful. Researchers noted that perceived age is subject to change, so if they can identify people who feel older than they are, they can be "targeted with health messages promoting positive health behaviors and attitudes toward aging." In the meantime, don't sweat it too much if you still freak out over your age sometimes, because it looks like feeling like an awkward teenager might come in handy after all!