Why Our Minds Never Catch Up With Our Bodies

That strange sense of feeling younger than you are is very common

Robert Roy Britt
Published in
4 min readApr 19, 2021


Image: Pixaby

When I look in the mirror, I see someone way older than my brain expects. My mind is stuck at around age 30, shaving a whopping 28 years off reality. It’s a strange sensation that leaves me feeling like the kid in a room of adults who are all around my age, or has me referring to a stranger in his fifties “some old guy.” Turns out I’m not alone, and science actually has a term for this very common internal time warp.

After about age 25, most people think of themselves as younger than their chronological age. And the gap in “subjective age,” as it’s called, widens with time.

Most people feel about 20% younger than their actual age, according to a Michigan State University survey of 502,548 people ages 10 to 89. At around age 50, the typical person will feel 40 on the inside. This skewed view of our aging selves influences how we think about growing older, too, and also how our perception of “old” changes as we become what we used to imagine. Young adults are apt to see 50 as old, the survey found, but people in their fifties are like, nuh uh!

“What you consider to be old changes as you become old yourself,” said study leader William Chopik, PhD, an assistant professor of psychology at Michigan State University.

What’s going on inside our heads?

This wrinkle in the perception of time might be driven by how fast your brain ages compared to your body. In one study, scientists surveyed people ages 59 to 84 about their health and how old they feel, then scanned their brains for signs of aging. Those who put their subjective age lower than their real age scored better on memory tests, were less likely to report signs of depression, and had more gray matter in key spots.

“People who feel younger have the structural characteristics of a younger brain,” said study leader Jeanyung Chey of Seoul National University in Korea.

Not everyone feels younger than they are, though. People who feel older might be sensing that their brains are aging, Chey and her colleagues speculate in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. If that’s true, a logical antidote…



Robert Roy Britt

Founder/editor of Wise & Well on Medium & the Writer's Guide at writersguide.substack.com & author of Make Sleep Your Superpower amazon.com/dp/B0BJBYFQCB

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