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Loneliness and unhappiness can age you faster than smoking, new research shows

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Psychological factors add up to 1.65 years to your biological age.
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Britney Spears may have been on to something in 1998 when she sang, “my loneliness is killing me.” According to a research article from Deep Longevity, a longevity research company, feeling hopeless, unhappy, or lonely could accelerate a person’s aging process more than smoking. Researchers determined these psychological factors can add up to 1.65 years to your biological age, whereas smoking can add 1.25 years.

“For decades, people think that they can maintain their well-being and organizations think that they can increase their productivity by working on the biological health of themselves and their employees, such as providing medical checkups,” lead researcher Helene H. Fung from The Chinese University of Hong Kong says in a press release. “Yet, our findings suggest that working on psychological factors, such as maintaining a positive mood, can be equally important.”

The study, which used AI to evaluate the blood and biometric data of 11,914 Chinese adults, looked at the effects of being lonely and unhappy on the pace of aging. Accelerated aging, the process by which “molecular damage accumulates and contributes to the development of aging-related frailty and serious diseases,” was found in people with a history of stroke, liver and lung diseases, and smokers. The study also determined that other factors, such as being single and living in rural areas with less access to medical services, were contributing factors toward aging acceleration.

“The individuals perform better, live longer, and have lower hazard ratio when they are psychologically and biologically younger than their chronological age,” Alex Zhavoronko, study co-author and CEO of Insilico Medicine, says in a press release. “This study provides us with interpretable AI-derived insights into how to possibly slow down or even reverse psychological aging.”

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