Older adults feel younger when they feel that they have more control over their daily lives, regardless of stress or health concerns, suggests new research.
However, stress and health -- not a sense of control -- play a significant role in how old younger adults feel, said the study published in the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences.
"The more control older adults think they have, the younger they feel," said study co-author Shevaun Neupert, professor at North Carolina State University in the US.
For this study, the researchers had 116 older adults (ages 60-90) and 107 younger adults (ages 18-36) fill out a daily survey for eight consecutive days. Study participants were asked questions aimed at assessing their daily stresses, physical health, sense of control over their daily lives, 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 said.
"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."
However, an individual's sense of control had no bearing on self-perceptions of age for young adults. But stress and adverse changes in health did make young people feel older.
"This highlights the importance of having older adults retain some sense of autonomy," Neupert said.
"It's not just a nice thing to do, it actually affects their well-being."