Researchers from all over the world are working to develop a new kind of “clock” that can determine your true biological age using artificial intelligence.
A recent attempt made some intriguing forecasts and included psychological aspects in the mix. According to preliminary research, the effects of mental illness may occasionally be more severe than those of physical illnesses and bad habits, such as smoking.
Chronological age is determined by how many years have passed; however, simply because two persons have shared the same number of birthdays does not imply that they are of similar health.
Researchers want to one day estimate how ‘young’ or ‘old’ a person is in biological years by taking into account specific characteristics of physical health, such as the gut flora or inflammation markers in the blood.
If the projection comes true, it might be possible for specialists to learn why some people age more quickly than others and what aspects of lifestyle affect ageing.
However, a crucial aspect of human health has been left out of earlier attempts to wind the clock: our mental and emotional state.
A decades-long investigation involving 2.3 million New Zealanders in 2021 discovered a clear correlation between mental illnesses and the development of physical illness and death.
Another study conducted in the same year discovered a link between midlife rapid ageing and a history of mental health problems. Additionally, this ageing effect started long before other age-related disorders often manifest.
In light of these results, scientists from the US and Hong Kong developed a computer algorithm to produce a new ageing clock that takes into account a number of psychological health aspects and blood biomarkers.
The China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS) dataset, which exclusively contains participants 45 and older, was used to train the algorithm, which was then tested on data from an additional 7,000 healthy adults.
In the end, the researchers discovered that psychological characteristics like sadness or loneliness increased a person’s biological age by 1.65 years. The impact outweighed other personal factors such as biological sex, place of residence, marital status, and smoking habits.
The authors draw the following conclusion: “We believe that the psychological component should not be overlooked in ageing studies due to its major impact on biological age.”
The work was supported by Deep Longevity, a publicly traded corporation that invests in deep ageing clocks. This most recent effort includes physical data on 16 blood variables, such as cholesterol levels, along with BMI, waist circumference, and blood pressure.
Based on eight emotions, including disturbed, lonely, unhappy, distracted, restless, depressed, hopeless, or afraid, the participants’ psychological well-being data were collected.
This is a condensed view of mental health, but if anything, that would make the biological clock’s forecasts more cautious.
The clock correctly predicted that sick people would be older than people in the larger, healthy cohort when it was tested particularly on people with cancer, heart disease, liver disease, lung disease, or stroke.
However, judging by the clock’s projections, it’s possible that factors other than smoking itself may have a greater negative effect on a person’s health than being single (which adds 0.59 years to ageing), having difficulties sleeping (which adds 0.44 years), and frequently feeling despondent.
According to the authors, their findings show that low psychological well-being has a harmful effect on individuals on a par with major illnesses and smoking.
They conclude that encouraging mental wellness “may be viewed as a viable anti-aging strategy with potential effects [on] par with more concrete, physical therapy techniques.”