- Research indicates that a history of mental illness makes you biologically older.
- This highlights the importance of recognizing and addressing the impact of mental health on overall well-being and healthy aging.
What Is Accelerated Biological Aging?
Accelerated biological aging refers to a condition in which an individual’s biological age is advanced beyond their chronological age. It is also known as premature aging or accelerated senescence.
Premature Aging And Mental Health
Research has shown that mental health plays a significant role in accelerating biological aging. Individuals with mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), are more likely to experience accelerated biological aging than those without mental health conditions.
For instance, a recent study by the European Psychiatric Association analyzed data from the UK Biobank, which included information on 168 different blood metabolites from a large cohort of 110,780 participants.
The researchers specifically investigated whether individuals with a history of mental illness exhibited differences in their metabolite profiles compared to those without mental illness.
The findings revealed that mental illness has a significant impact on the body’s metabolic processes, potentially contributing to premature aging at a molecular level. People with mental illness or those with a lifetime history of mental disorders (such as bipolar and anxiety disorders as well as depression) have blood markers suggesting that they are older than their actual age.
The researchers elaborated: “Our findings indicate that the bodies of people with mental health problems tend to be older than would be expected for an individual their age. This may not explain all the differences in health and life expectancy between those with mental health problems and the general population, but it does mean that accelerated biological aging may be an important factor.”
Why Mental Illness Makes You Biologically Older
Mental health disorders may cause faster aging by affecting various physiological processes in the body, such as:
- Oxidative stress
- Telomere shortening
- Hormonal dysregulation
- Unhealthy lifestyle behaviors
- Poor sleep quality
- Chronic psychosocial stress
Tips For Healthy Aging
Those with mental illness are biologically older, making themselves vulnerable to a wide range of mental and physical health conditions and a brief lifespan. Therefore, it is crucial to reduce the risks of mental health conditions to enjoy a healthy aging and a longer, happier life. Consider the following tips for successful aging:
- Seek mental health care for mental health conditions.
- Follow a balanced diet with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
- Regularly engage in physical exercises like walking, swimming, or strength training.
- Avoid smoking, excessive alcohol, and sugary and processed foods.
- Prioritize quality sleep and establish a regular sleep schedule.
- Practice stress management techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, or yoga.
- Stay socially engaged with family, friends, and community activities.
- Stay mentally active with reading, puzzles, or learning new skills.
- Stay informed about overall health with regular check-ups, screenings, and vaccinations.
- Maintain a positive outlook on life, cultivate a sense of purpose, and foster meaningful relationships for mental and emotional well-being.
Therefore, by taking steps to manage mental health conditions, individuals can work towards maintaining their overall well-being and mitigating the effects of accelerated biological aging associated with mental illness. It’s important to prioritize mental health as a key component of healthy aging for a fulfilling and vibrant life in the later years.