Health & Wellbeing

Comprehensive study suggests biological aging is slowing down

Comprehensive study suggests b...
A comprehensive new study shows that Americans are biologically aging more slowly now than 20 years ago
A comprehensive new study shows that Americans are biologically aging more slowly now than 20 years ago
View 1 Image
A comprehensive new study shows that Americans are biologically aging more slowly now than 20 years ago
1/1
A comprehensive new study shows that Americans are biologically aging more slowly now than 20 years ago

Everybody wants to live longer, and to help turn back the clock scientists are working on drugs, stem cell treatments and caloric restriction. But how well are these efforts paying off? A comprehensive new study from Yale University and the University of Southern California (USC) has found that Americans seem to be aging more slowly now than they were 20 years ago.

If someone asks you your age, the number on the tip of your tongue is probably your chronological age – the amount of years that have passed since you were born (or at least, the amount you're willing to admit). But due to a massive range of lifestyle and genetic factors, everyone physically experiences aging at a different rate, and this is known as your biological age.

It's this second number that the new study focused on. The researchers gathered health and nutrition data from over 21,500 people, calculated their biological age and compared it to their chronological age, to see how the difference might have changed between 1988 and 2010. To determine biological ages, the team used a wide range of health indicators, such as blood pressure, breath capacity, and the amount of certain markers in the blood, including hemoglobin, cholesterol, creatinine, alkaline phosphate, albumin and C-reactive protein.

Across the board, the researchers observed an overall trend towards a lower biological age. In that time, the difference gains between patients' biological and chronological ages seemed to be higher for older people, and for men compared to women.

"While improvements may take time to manifest, and thus are more apparent at older ages, this could also signal problems for younger cohorts, particularly females, who — if their improvements are more minimal — may not see the same gains in life expectancy as experienced by the generations that came before them," says Morgan Levine, lead author of the study.

The researchers say this is the first evidence of delayed aging in a national sample, and the positive results might be at least partly attributed to reductions in smoking, improvements to medicine, and healthier behaviors.

It's well documented that the average life expectancy has been on the increase for decades, but the new study shows this isn't just a case of being able to keep sick people alive for longer. Our healthspan is improving too – the proportion of our lives we enjoy living in good health.

"Life extension without changing the aging rate will have detrimental implications," says Levine. "Medical care costs will rise, as people spend a higher proportion of their lives with disease and disability. However, lifespan extension accomplished through a deceleration of the aging process will lead to lower health care expenditures, higher productivity and greater well-being."

The research was published in the journal Demography.

Source: USC

4 comments
Bob
This might apply to a few people but most of it is hype. Government is trying to convince us to delay taking Social Security, financial advisors want us to keep working and investing because most of us will out live our money if we don't. Unfortunately, they are more interested in their financial interests than our welfare. Over the past few years the average lifespan for men has actually dropped from 78 to 76. One study even showed that today someone aged 60 can only expect to live four years longer than someone aged 60 in 1940. That is only a four year gain despite all our modern medicine. For men that has now dropped two years. Yes, more people are living into their 90s but that is simply because there are more people today. Our individual chances haven't gotten any better. So, when you read about all the drugs, vitamins and medical advances that will help you live longer take it with a grain of salt. They are selling and hoping you buy.
Douglas Bennett Rogers
I developed gall bladder problems shortly after going gluten free. I lost about 30 lbs. so I think calorie restriction was the reason. For animals and plants longevity is almost proportional to scale. Calories per unit mass is inversely proportional to scale. This is why species grow to their mechanical limits, within their niche.
buzzclick
Studies such as this that measure the increasing lifespan of people are well and done, but what about in the West, where a significant part of the poorer population is overweight and even obese? So affluent people are living longer while the rest of society has a higher proportion of people who eat junk/fast food that is fattening and of little health benefit. There goes their lifespan!
Karmudjun
Michael, I some how missed this two years ago when it was fresh. But your synopsis of the findings are still apropos! And your prose is still smooth.

I had to read the comments. I am also a physician who has been reading the "Non-Governmental" Journals - including this one, Demography, 55, pages387–402(2018). And yes, I know how to footnote source material.

Bob brought up a good point, my generation ("boomers") has burgeoned the population numbers with a remarkable longevity. I might point out that the men who were traditionally being outlasted by women are still dying at the same rates - but more men are living longer as more women are living longer. We will catch up one day long after I'm gone...or not. Hepatitis is not a malingering death sentence as it was a generation ago - neither is lung cancer, coronary artery disease, colon cancer, breast cancer, gastric cancer, and even leukemia & lymphomas! Many breakthroughs have followed President Nixon's initiative to "beat cancer". Some actions have helped, some approaches have proven fruitless.

When we finally learn how to reduce or reverse diabetes, when he learn more about how to reverse the progression to heart failure, we will see a jump in the functional quality of the oldsters like me. I have benefited from not smoking, from careful surveillance for various cancers (and no, I don't care for the colonoscopies or the prostate exams), and my eyesight will not be taken by cataracts as I am only in the beginning stages of cataract development. When it is time, I will have the surgery. My hearing is intact and am capable of bicycling so I'd say my quality of life is good. If Soc.Sec. moves back to 72, it will more closely correspond to when I plan to start "living the good life" of retirement. I plan on phasing out my practice at 75 if the Lord allows me escape SARS-CoV-2 and other unpredictable events.

Thanks - you write well Michael, keep producing these synopsis! I can't tell you how many family conferences or resident meetings I've shared information I first read in your articles (and then verified by reading the source articles and speaking with colleagues) to raise moral or give hope. Longevity with a poor quality of life is not a good thing and I notice not many articles outside of medical journals deal with the topic - so finding articles that discuss trends like this are welcome "hype". But is it really hype if the facts bear it out?