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Older adults feel younger when they’re in control

Stress can negatively impact health and wellbeing and cause people to become overwhelmed and feel that they have no control over their daily lives.

Now, a new study has found that older adults feel more youthful when they have control over their daily lives, even if stress levels are high.

Finding ways to improve self-control is important and can help boost wellbeing. But the study, conducted by researchers from North Carolina State University, found that different age groups place different levels of importance and value on self-control.

“We recently found that there are things older adults can do to improve their feelings of control in their everyday lives,” said Shevaun Neupert, a co-author of the study. “Now this study highlights how those feelings of control influence perceptions of age. The more control older adults think they have, the younger they feel.”

The study showed that self-control made older adults feel younger despite stress or health concerns, but for younger age groups, stress and health impacted how youthful each individual felt.

The researchers surveyed 116 adults aged 60 to 90 and 107 younger adults aged 18 to 36 for eight consecutive days. The participants were given questionnaires about daily stressors, physical health, and self-control and how old they felt.

“Everyone’s sense of control fluctuates from day to day, or even over the course of a day – that’s normal,” Neupert says. “We found that when older adults felt more in control, they also felt younger. That was true even when accounting for stress and physical health.”

For the 18 to 36-year-olds though, feelings of self-control did little to impact feelings of youthfulness.

The study shows that as people age, their sense of autonomy may impact their well-being and ensuring that older adults have self-control over their lives could help guard against daily stressors.

The study was published in the journal Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences.

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer

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