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How old do you feel? The role of age discrimination and biological aging in subjective age.

Authors: Yannick Y. Stephan, Angelina R AR. Sutin, Antonio A. Terracciano
Published: 03/04/2015, PloS one


Subjective age, or how young or old individuals experience themselves to be relative to their chronological age, is a crucial construct in gerontology. Subjective age is a significant predictor of important health outcomes, but little is known about the criteria by which individuals' subjectively evaluate their age. To identify psychosocial and biomedical factors linked to the subjective evaluation of age, this study examined whether perceived age discrimination and markers of biological aging are associated with subjective age. Participants were 4776 adults (Mage = 68) from the 2008 and 2010 waves of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) who completed measures of subjective age, age discrimination, demographic variables, self-rated health and depression, and had physical health measures, including peak expiratory flow, grip strength, waist circumference, systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Telomere length was available for a subset of participants in the 2008 wave (n = 2214). Regression analysis indicated that perceived age discrimination, lower peak expiratory flow, lower grip strength, and higher waist circumference were associated with an older subjective age, controlling for sociodemographic factors, self-rated health, and depression. In contrast, blood pressure and telomere length were not related to subjective age. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that how old a person feels depends in part on psychosocial and biomedical factors, including the experiences of ageism and perceptible indices of fitness and biological age.

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