Subjective age, or how young or old individuals experience themselves to be, is related to a range of health-related outcomes in old age, including mortality risk. Little is known, however, about its association with markers of systemic inflammation. Using data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), the present study examined the relation between subjective age and C-reactive protein (CRP). Participants were 4120 older adults from the 2008 wave of the HRS who provided measures of subjective age, CRP, demographic variables, Body Mass Index (BMI), depression, smoking, physical activity and disease burden. Regression analyses revealed that a younger subjective age was related to lower CRP, controlling for demographic factors. This association was reduced by half but remained significant when health and behavioral covariates were adjusted for, suggesting that BMI, physical activity and disease burden may partially account for lower inflammation in individuals with a younger subjective age. Furthermore, a logistic regression revealed that feeling younger than one's age was associated with reduced risk of exceeding the clinical threshold of CRP, controlling for covariates. The present study provides the first evidence of an association between subjective age and systemic inflammation among older adults. It suggests that individuals' ratings of their subjective age may help identify individuals at greater risk for immune dysfunction related to morbidity and mortality.
Keywords: Aging; C-reactive protein; Inflammation; Subjective age.
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