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心理年齡和生理年齡:哪個對健康更重要

The age you feel means more than your actual birthdate
心理年齡和生理年齡:哪個對健康更重要

Imagine, for a moment, that you had no birth certificate and your age was simply based on the way you feel inside. How old would you say you are?

想象一下,如果沒有出生證明,對于年齡的判斷僅基于內心感受,你會覺得自己多大了?

Like your height or shoe size, the number of years that have passed since you first entered the world is an unchangeable fact. But everyday experience suggests that we often don’t experience ageing the same way, with many people feeling older or younger than they really are.

和身高以及鞋碼一樣,你來到這個世界的年頭是不可改變的事實。但日常經驗表明,通常我們的衰老程度與實際年齡并不相符,很多人感覺自己比實際年齡更衰老或更年輕。

Scientists are increasingly interested in this quality. They are finding that your ‘subjective age’ may be essential for understanding the reasons that some people appear to flourish as they age – while others fade. “The extent to which older adults feel much younger than they are may determine important daily or life decisions for what they will do next,” says Brian Nosek at the University of Virginia.

科學家們對這種特點的興趣漸增。他們開始發現,"主觀年齡"至關重要,這有助于理解為什么有些人隨著年歲增長精神愈發飽滿,而另一些人則未老先衰。弗吉尼亞大學的諾塞克(Brian Nosek)說:"年紀大的人覺得自己在多大程度上小于自己的實際年齡,可能會決定他們如何做出日常判斷或生命決策。"

Its importance doesn’t end there. Various studies have even shown that your subjective age also can predict various important health outcomes, including your risk of death. In some very real ways, you really are ‘only as old as you feel’.

"主觀年齡"的重要性不止于此。各種研究甚至表明,你的主觀年齡還可以預測各種重要的健康狀況,包括死亡風險。在現實生活中,有時候你真的"只有你感覺的那么老"。

Given these enticing results, many researchers are now trying to unpick the many biological, psychological, and social factors that shape the individual experience of ageing – and how this knowledge might help us live longer, healthier lives.

鑒于這些誘人的結果,許多研究人員正在深入剖析影響個人衰老的生物學、心理學和社會因素,以及這種認識如何幫助我們活得更長久、更健康。

This new understanding of the ageing process has been decades in the making. Some of the earliest studies charting the gap between felt and chronological age appeared in the 1970s and 1980s. That trickle of initial interest has now turned into a flood. A torrent of new studies during the last 10 years have explored the potential psychological and physiological consequences of this discrepancy.

這種對衰老過程的新認識已經醞釀了幾十年。最早記錄主觀年齡與實際年齡差距的研究出現在20世紀七八十年代,最初的興趣從涓涓細流變成滔滔泉涌。過去的10年里,大量新研究探索了這種差異帶來的潛在心理和生理后果。

One of the most intriguing strands of this research has explored the way subjective age interacts with our personality. It is now well accepted that people tend to mellow as they get older, becoming less extroverted and less open to new experiences – personality changes which are less pronounced in people who are younger at heart and accentuated in people with older subjective ages.

最有趣的一個方面是,研究探索了主觀年齡與個性之間的聯系。現在大家普遍認為,隨著年齡增長,人們會變得更成熟,變得不那么外向,也不太有開放的心態去嘗試新經歷。性格變化在心態年輕的人身上表現得不太明顯,而在主觀年齡較大的人身上則表現更明顯。

Interestingly, however, the people with younger subjective ages also became more conscientious and less neurotic – positive changes that come with normal ageing. So they still seem to gain the wisdom that comes with greater life experience. But it doesn’t come at the cost of the energy and exuberance of youth. It’s not as if having a lower subjective age leaves us frozen in a state of permanent immaturity.

然而,有趣的是,主觀年齡較低的人會更有責任心,不那么神經質,而這些特征是正常衰老過程中產生的積極變化。因此,隨著生活經驗的累積,這些人似乎增長了智慧,但這并非以青春活力和能量為代價。較低的主觀年齡并不意味著永遠不成熟。

Feeling younger than your years also seems to come with a lower risk of depression and greater mental wellbeing as we age. It also means better physical health, including your risk of dementia, and less of a chance that you will be hospitalised for illness.

隨著年齡的增長,覺得自己比實際年齡年輕的人患抑郁癥的風險更低,心理健康狀況也更好。這也意味著他們的身體更健康,包括患癡呆癥的風險更低,因生病而住院的幾率也更少。

Yannick Stephan at the University of Montpellier examined the data from three longitudinal studies which together tracked more than 17,000 middle-aged and elderly participants.

蒙彼利埃大學(University of Montpellier)的斯蒂芬(Yannick Stephan)對三項縱向研究的數據進行了分析,這些研究總共跟蹤了逾1.7萬名中年和老年參與者。

Most people felt about eight years younger than their actual chronological age. But some felt they had aged – and the consequences were serious. Feeling between 8 and 13 years older than your actual age resulted in an 18-25% greater risk of death over the study periods, and greater disease burden – even when you control for other demographic factors such as education, race or marital status.

大多數人感覺自己比實際年齡小八歲。但有些人覺得自己已經衰老了,這種想法產生了嚴重的后果。在研究期間,覺得自己比實際年齡大8到13歲的人,死亡風險高出了18-25%。甚至當控制了其他人口學因素,如教育、種族或婚姻狀況時,這些人仍會承受更重的疾病負擔。

There are many reasons why subjective age tells us so much about our health. It may be a direct result of those accompanying personality changes, with a lower subjective age meaning that you enjoy a greater range of activities (such as travelling or learning a new hobby) as you age. “Studies have found, for example, that subjective age is predictive of physical activity patterns,” Stephan says.

有很多原因可以解釋為何主觀年齡與健康狀況息息相關。這可能是性格變化帶來的直接結果,較低的主觀年齡意味著,隨著年紀增長你可以享受更多活動(比如旅行,或者培養一項新愛好)。史蒂芬說::"研究發現,主觀年齡可以預測身體活動模式。"

But the mechanism linking physical and mental wellbeing to subjective age almost certainly acts in both directions. If you feel depressed, forgetful, and physically vulnerable, you are likely to feel older. The result could be a vicious cycle, with psychological and physiological factors both contributing to a higher subjective age and worse health, which makes us feel even older and more vulnerable.

但將身心健康與主觀年齡聯系起來的機制肯定是雙向作用的。當你感到沮喪、健忘、體弱,你可能會覺得自己老了。這是一個惡性循環,心理和生理因素都將導致主觀年齡增加和健康狀況惡化,我們會覺得自己更年邁、更脆弱。

Stephan’s analysis, which is now in press in the journal of Psychosomatic Medicine, is the largest study of the effect of subjective age on mortality to date. These large effect sizes demand close attention. “These associations are comparable or stronger than the contribution of chronological age,” says Stephan.

史蒂芬的分析結果刊登在了《身心醫學》(Psychosomatic Medicine)期刊上,這是迄今為止關于主觀年齡對死亡率影響的規模最大的研究。這些因主觀年齡產生的巨大效應需要密切關注。"這些關聯與實際年齡所帶來的影響相當,甚至更強,"斯蒂芬說。

Put another way: your subjective age can better predict your health than the date on your birth certificate.

換句話說,主觀年齡比出生證上的日期更能預測你的健康狀況。

With this in mind, many scientists are trying to identify the social and psychological factors that may shape this complex process. When do we start to feel that our minds and bodies are operating on different timescales? And why does it happen?

考慮到這一點,許多科學家正在尋找影響這一復雜過程的社會及心理因素。什么時候我們開始察覺到思想和身體在不同的時間尺度上發展?為什么會這樣?

Working with Nicole Lindner (also at the University of Virginia), Nosek has investigated the ways the discrepancy between subjective and chronological age evolves across the lifetime. As you might expect, most children and adolescents feel older than they really are. But this switches at around 25, when the felt age drops behind the chronological age. By age 30, around 70% of people feel younger than they really are. And this discrepancy only grows over time. As Nosek and Lindner put it in their paper, “Subjective ageing appears to occur on Mars, where one Earth decade equals only 5.3 Martian years.”

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諾塞克和同樣在弗吉尼亞大學工作的林德納(Nicole Lindner)一起研究了人一生中主觀年齡和實際年齡之間的差異是如何演變的。你可能已經預料到,大多數孩子和青少年覺得自己比實際年齡要大。但這種情況在25歲左右就開始轉變了,那時人們感覺心理年齡要比實際年齡小。到30歲時,大約70%的人覺得自己比實際年齡要年輕,并且這種差異只會逐漸拉大。正如諾塞克和林德納在論文中所說,"主觀老化似乎發生在火星上,而地球上的10年只相當于火星上的5.3年。"

Lindner and Nosek also measured the “desired age” of their participants – which, to their surprise, also followed Martian time. “It keeps going up with us, and at just a slightly slower rate than how we feel right now,” Nosek said. This would seem to “support the idea that we experience our life experiences as continuously getting better, just a bit more slowly than our actual experiences,” he says. It’s not as if there is one single peak age. Again, this flip occurs in our mid-20s: 60% of 20-year-olds want to be older. But by the age 26, 70% would prefer to be younger, and from then on, most people view the recent past with the rosiest spectacles.

林德納和諾瑟克還測量了參與者的"期望年齡"。令他們驚訝的是,期望年齡比主觀年齡更小。諾塞克說:"期望年齡一直在增長,只是比我們現在的感覺慢一點。"這點似乎驗證了這樣一種觀點,即"我們的生活體驗在不斷變好,只是比實際體驗慢一點,"他說。并不是說只有一個高峰年齡。同樣,這種情況發生在25歲左右:在20多歲的年輕人中,有60%想要變老。但到了26歲時,70%的人會更希望自己年輕一些,從那時起,大多數人都會用最樂觀的眼光看待過去。

Some psychologists have speculated that a lower subjective age is a form of self-defence, protecting us from the negative age stereotypes – as seen in a nuanced study by Anna Kornadt at Bielefeld University in Germany.

一些心理學家推測,擁有較低的主觀年齡是一種自我防衛,保護我們不受消極的年齡刻板印象的影響。德國比勒費爾德大學(Bielefeld University)的科納德(Anna Kornadt)在一項細致入微的研究中也看到了這一點。

Kornadt’s study hinged on the idea that people’s subjective age might be a multifaceted thing that varies in different domains. You may feel differently when you think about yourself at work compared with when you think about your social relationships, for example. And so Kornadt asked participants to say whether they felt younger or older than they really were in different areas of life.

科爾納德的研究基于這樣一種觀點,即人們的主觀年齡可能是一個多面體,在不同的領域有所不同。例如,你在工作中和在社會關系中的自我感知是有差異的。所以科納特問參與者,是否在生活的不同方面覺得自己的年齡有所不同。

Sure enough, she found that people’s subjective ages were lower when negative age stereotypes are most prevalent – such as work, health and finance – which would seem to support the idea that this thinking helps people distance themselves from the negative connotations of their age-group. Believing “I may be 65 but I only feel 50” would mean you are less worried about your performance at work, for instance. Kornadt also found that people with a lower subjective age tended to imagine their future self in a more positive light.

毫無疑問,她發現,當對年齡的消極成見廣為流行的時候,人們的主觀年齡就會降低,比如在工作、健康和經濟等方面。這似乎支持了這樣一種觀點,即從心底里覺得自己年輕可以幫助人們遠離所在年齡段的消極含義。"我雖然65歲,但我覺得自己只有50歲",這種想法意味著你不用太擔心自己在工作中的表現。科納德還發現,主觀年齡較低的人傾向于用更積極的眼光想象未來的自己。

By protecting us from our society’s dismal view of ageing and giving us a more optimistic view of our future, this self-defence could, in turn, further explain some of the health benefits of feeling younger than you really are.

使自己遠離社會對衰老的悲觀看法,樂觀地看待未來——這種自我防御機制反過來可以進一步解釋年輕心態對健康的益處。

Despite these advances, scientists are only getting to grips with their potential implications, though it is certainly possible that future interventions might try to reduce participants’ subjective age and improve their health as a result. In one of the few existing studies, elderly participants in a fitness regime enjoyed greater strength gains if the experimenters praised their performance relative to other people of their age.

雖然已取得了這些進展,科學家們仍只是在研究它們的潛在影響,但未來的干預措施極有可能通過降低參與者的主觀年齡來改善他們的健康狀況。在現有為數不多的對此議題的研究中,有一項研究表明,如果實驗者對同齡人稱贊自己的表現,那么處于健身狀態的老年人會獲得更大的力量提升。

And given its predictive power – beyond our actual chronological age – Stephan believes that doctors should be asking all their patients about their subjective age to identify the people who are most at risk of future health problems to plan their existing health care more effectively.

由于主觀年齡的預測能力超越了實際年齡,斯蒂芬認為,醫生應該詢問所有患者的主觀年齡,以確定哪些人最有可能在未來出現健康問題,以便更有效地提供醫療保健。

In the meantime, these findings can give us all a more nuanced view of the way our own brains and bodies weather the passing of time. However old you really are, it’s worth questioning whether any of those limitations are coming from within.

與此同時,這些發現可以讓我們更加細致地看待自己的大腦和身體如何經受時間流逝。不管實際年齡有多大,我們都應該質疑是否諸多條條框框的限制來自自己的內心。

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