According to research, being unhappy may have a greater negative impact on lifespan than smoking.
According to data collected from 12,000 Chinese adults, having a poor mental state—caused by experiencing loneliness, hopelessness, and restless sleep—can shorten one's lifespan by more than one and a half years.
Researchers claim that their study, which was released on Tuesday, September 27 in the journal Ageing, demonstrates the importance of both physical and mental health.
The discovery was made by a US-China team as they looked into a new AI "ageing clock" that had been programmed using the biological sex, blood markers, biometric information, and biological ages of participants in a large population study.
The clock worked backwards to estimate the specific contributions of different variables to ageing.
Lead author Dr Fedor Galkin said: “Ageing acceleration was detected in people with a history of stroke, liver and lung diseases, smokers, and, most interestingly, people in a vulnerable mental state."
“In fact, feeling hopeless, unhappy, and lonely was shown to increase one’s biological age more than smoking.”
While smoking cut lifespans by an estimated 1.25 years, unhappiness and other psychological factors cut lifespans by 1.65 years, or one year and eight months.
The team linked other psychosocial variables, like being single or living in a rural area, to shorter lifespans. But their effect was much smaller.
Although the research itself is relatively new, it chimes with previous work that linked strong relationships with friends and family to longevity.
Co-author Manuel Faria, a neuroscientist at Stanford University, California, said: “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 healthcare.”
Dr. Galkin added, “The psychological component should not be ignored in aging studies due to its significant impact on biological age.”