1. Being a caregiver
Whether it’s traditional caregiving, such as helping an elderly parent recover from surgery, or being the primary caretaker for your kids, caring for anyone can make someone age beyond their years. According to the data, this can cause stress that ages one beyond one’s years; in fact,45% of caregivers helping spouses or parents report extremely high levels of stress, which leads to them ultimately neglecting their own needs.
Middle-aged caregivers especially are most likely to make unhealthier choices. “Caregivers between the ages of 45 and 64 are more likely to be obese, more likely to binge drink, and more likely to smoke,” leading to higher rates of high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.
The researchers attribute this to being linked with higher depression and anxiety, which degrade telomeres, which are the specialized protein sequences at the ends of your chromosomes that naturally shorten with age.
2. Retiring in the wrong ways
A study from 2011 showed that women who worked in full-time stressful environments for longer periods of time had shorter telomeres than those who hadn’t been working as long. The more stressed-out population also had higher levels of epinephrine in their systems, which is also known as adrenaline – a degrading hormone that can ultimately damage your body if not exerted in smaller, more manageable doses.
In the Aging and Mental Health Journal’s 2021 study on retirement, it was found that an active retirement filled with a reasonable amount of activities is what keeps the brain sharp and active. The research finds that “people reporting more social activity engagement at baseline reported fewer depressive symptoms.” An increase in social activities was also a determinant of less depressive symptoms, and people who were more socially and physically active, engaging in an equitable balance of both mentally stimulating events and leisure time, also reported less depression.
3. Denying the issues
Denial comes in many forms – denial of wrongdoing, denial of culpability, or denial of impending trouble. But the form of denial that ages you the most is denial about your health, such as avoiding doctors, thinking that you can play the same sports as you could when you were younger, or shrugging off important procedures because of a high price point.
Avoiding doctors might be the biggest issue on a national level, especially among older populations. The biggest issue was that “over one-third of participants reported unfavorable evaluations of seeking medical care.” This could be anything from an incompetent physician to a disorganized doctor’s office or grumpy hospital staff.
24% of people also reported that the high cost of care was an issue, but only 8% of that subset cited a lack of insurance.
4. A bitter mentality
The same study on telomeres covers how cynical people can suffer shortened life spans as a result of their huffy attitudes to the same degree of intensity as depressed or anxious people. “Scientists have learned that cynical hostility appears to be unhealthy for telomeres,” which is defined as both extreme rage and paranoia that others are acting in ways that intentionally harm you.
In this study, men who fell into the category of “most hostile” were 30% more likely to have a combination of shorter telomeres, and high telomerase, which is “an enzyme in cells that helps keep telomeres in good shape.” And as we know, the shorter the telomeres, the closer one is to an untimely end.