A new study shows people who feel older than their age are more likely to spend time in the hospital.
The findings are based on an analysis of three national studies totaling more than 10,000 middle-age and older adults. Those studies found a link between health-related issues and subjective age. However, the new study was the first to explore a possible association between feeling older and the risk of hospitalization, according to the American Psychological Association (APA).
People who reported feeling older than their age were about 10% to 25% likelier to spend time in the hospital during the next two to 10 years, according to the new study.
The researchers said that feeling older is associated with poorer physical and mental health, and such impairments may result in illnesses that drive individuals to the hospital or other healthcare providers. These hospitalizations, in turn, can increase disabilities and hasten declines in daily function, which could lead to more hospitalizations.
But the study doesn’t prove a definitive cause-and-effect relationship, the authors warned. It was only designed to find an association between how old people feel and their health risks.
The APA published the findings in February 2016 in the journal Health Psychology under the title “Feeling Older and Risk of Hospitalization: Evidence from Three Longitudinal Cohorts.”
The authors said they want to see whether the findings can be replicated using Medicare claims among those age 65 and older. They also said supplemental analyses suggested that being hospitalized may cause individuals to feel older.
Americans spent nearly $3 trillion on healthcare in 2013, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s equivalent to $9,255 per person among the national population of 316.5 million.
The new report is based on studies conducted from 1995 to 2013 with participants ranging in age from 24 to 102. Participants were asked how old they felt when the study began.
They also were asked whether they had experienced symptoms of depression or been diagnosed with conditions such as arthritis, stroke, cancer, diabetes, lung disease and high blood pressure. Researchers followed up to determine whether participants had been admitted to the hospital.
Exercise programs and other physical activity may benefit individuals who feel older than their age, which could cut their chances of developing chronic diseases or depression and help keep them out of the hospital, the researchers noted.