You’ve heard that money is the root of all evil, right? Now we can apply that adage to aging. A study just published in the Research on Aging journal found that people who worry about money actually look older than those who don’t stress about their finances. And they look a lot older ― as in 10 years older.
In the study, 200 people self-rated their levels of financial stress, and then photos were taken of them in 1994-1995 and again in 2004-2005. A panel was then asked to guess the ages of the people in the pictures. Across the board, reviewers found that the people who said they were under heavy financial stress had aged more.
As a side note: The study subjects who said they were under financial stress reported that they didn’t see themselves as looking older.
“What did surprise us was that financial stress was related just to how old you looked to others,“ says Margie Lachman, a professor of psychology at Brandeis and one of the study’s authors, in a release. “It was not related to how old one feels or how old one thinks they look. So it showed up to others in one’s appearance, but not in terms of one’s own subjective views or perceptions of their age.“
So does worry and stress really age you? While we know that stress can be a killer and that money is one of those big-time stressors, Lachman speculated that stressed-out people may just be less likely to spend as much time on their appearance or healthy lifestyle choices. “Cosmetics or engaging in healthy practices for diet, exercise and sleep can affect how old one looks,“ she said.
That said, stress has also been shown to accelerate aging on the cellular level, so it’s not just about a few more worry lines showing up. Chronic stress has been found to contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Unfortunately, even just anticipatory worrying comes with a downside. UC San Francisco researchers found that the mere anticipation of stress can increase an individual’s risk of age-related disorders.