Being lonely and unhappy quickens the aging process more than smoking

There are many ways one can hurt themselves.
Deniz Yildiran
Sad woman sitting alone.
Sad woman sitting alone.

Inside Creative House/iStock 

When we feel lonely or sad, we may tend to retreat to our shelves or surround ourselves with the people we trust just to put a temporary band-aid on the sorrow we experience. However, finding no cure to being actually alone and unhappy for a long time can have devastating effects not only on our mental health but also on our physical health, hence our appearance.

Scientists just confirmed that prolonged loneliness and unhappiness could accelerate the aging process of an individual, according to a study published in the journal Aging-US.

Accumulated molecular damage makes a major contribution to the development of aging-related frailty and serious diseases, which might result in accelerated aging in some people. However, this process might be detected before things take a turn through digital models of aging (aging clocks).

Scientists from the U.S. and China, along with Deep Longevity, a company focused on providing people longer and healthier lives, have measured the effects of different factors on the pace of aging, such as loneliness, restless sleep, and feeling unhappy.

Mental state to head off smoking

The team modeled a new aging clock trained on blood and biometric data of 11,914 Chinese adults, and the results were both expected and surprising.

People who smoke and those with a history of stroke, liver and lung diseases turned out to have aging acceleration. Now, this part looks like no surprise. However, people who are in a vulnerable mental state seemed to have it too, and the aforementioned psychological and psychosocial factors were shown to increase one's biological age more than smoking did.

Other factors include being single and living in a rural area due to medical services being less common.

"Mental and psychosocial states are some of the most robust predictors of health outcomes—and quality of life—yet they have largely been omitted from modern health care," Manuel Faria from Stanford University said.


We have developed a deep learning aging clock using blood test data from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study, which has a mean absolute error of 5.68 years. We used the aging clock to demonstrate the connection between the physical and psychological aspects of aging. The clock detects accelerated aging in people with heart, liver, and lung conditions. We demonstrate that psychological factors, such as feeling unhappy or being lonely, add up to 1.65 years to one's biological age, and the aggregate effect exceeds the effects of biological sex, living area, marital status, and smoking status. We conclude that the psychological component should not be ignored in aging studies due to its significant impact on biological age.

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