An internet forum member recently asked for examples of things that instantly age a person. I laughed out loud at one who responded: “Not choosing the cup of a carpenter,” before another said: “He chose… poorly.” Anyone who has seen that scene in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade should get that hilarious reference. Nonetheless, here are the top things that can age you almost overnight.
Stress is terrible for your health, but did you know it can age you? Founder of the London Regenerative Institute, Tunc Tiryaki, told Healthline: “Oxidative stress can damage cells, proteins, and DNA, leading to premature aging.” Furthermore: “Chronic stress has been associated with shorter telomeres, which can contribute to premature aging.”
Countless individuals suggest that nothing ages you faster than grief. Losing a loved one, especially a child, causes a deep grieving that can negatively impact your health. Foreo states, “Grief or bereavement releases the hormone cortisol in reaction to stress that breaks down tissue and, in excess, can lead to collagen breakdown and accelerated aging.”
3. Substance Abuse
It is widely accepted that substance abuse leads to premature aging. When I was in rehab, several people believed quitting substances aged them overnight. I felt the same way.
While some forum members argue that alcohol aging isn’t overnight but gradual, others remind people of before and after meth pictures and note that some substances accelerate aging more quickly than others. Smoking is also terrible. It causes wrinkling of the skin, including lines around the mouth and crow’s feet around the eyes.
Have you ever watched someone with cancer age almost instantly before your eyes? I have. After my mother was treated for breast cancer, she looked considerably older than before her diagnosis. Multiple people in the thread confirm this truth, with one adding: “Aging ’30 years in a month’ is an accurate measurement.”
I hadn’t thought about this before, but it makes sense. According to a National Institutes of Health (NIH) study: “Military service may contribute to accelerated aging as a result of health-damaging exposures, such as combat, injury, and environmental contaminants, though other unmeasured confounders could also potentially explain the results.”
6. Having Children
As a mother of two, I can confirm. Having children ages you instantly. From the physical tolls to the hormonal changes, it is not a walk in the park. Several moms admit to getting grey hairs instantly after childbirth. I share that experience as well.
7. Chronic Back Pain
Yes. As a chronic back pain survivor, I can attest to it making you feel so much older than you are. For example, you can’t do things that other people your age can easily do, like lifting things or even getting out of bed at times. A user clarifies: “You’re only as old as your back.”
8. Hair Loss
Numerous people admit that losing hair is the quickest way to age someone. An unfortunate number of men lament losing their hair as early as their late teens and being mistaken for being older all of the time. As a woman dealing with thinning hair, as we speak, I see an older woman in the mirror, and it’s given me a greater understanding of how balding men feel. It sucks.
9. Lack of Sleep
Sleep Education reports: “A study by UCLA researchers discovered that a single night of insufficient sleep can make an older adult’s cells age quicker. This might not seem like a big deal, but it has the potential to bring on a lot of other diseases. Multiple sclerosis, heart disease, and cancer are just a few of them.”
Tanning, be it a natural sun tan or fake tanning bed glow, is one of the quickest ways to age a person. Anyone around people who love to tan has witnessed the reality that skin can begin to look like leather. It’s unbelievable that tanning in beds is legal when it causes premature aging and, worse, skin cancer!
The wrong hairstyle can age a person overnight, especially if you’re over 30. Someone ponders: “I don’t know why some people, especially women, develop a hairstyle and stick with it for the rest of their lives.”
Others bring up the “Karen” hairstyle that is shorter in the back than in the front as one that ages women quickly. I can’t help but think of that Seinfeld episode with the physical therapist wearing a ’60s hairstyle.
12. Childhood Trauma
Did you know that childhood trauma can speed up biological aging? According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “Children who suffer trauma from abuse or violence early in life show biological signs of aging faster than children who have never experienced adversity.” Trauma can cause biological aging in early puberty, cellular aging, and alterations in brain structure.
13. Working Night Shifts
The BBC reports: “Research showed the brains of workers who’d done 10 years of night shifts had aged by an extra six-and-a-half years. They couldn’t remember as much or think so quickly.” Furthermore, a massive U.S. study followed 75,000 female nurses who worked shifts over the past 22 years. It shows that one in ten who have worked rotating shifts for six years will die early.
14. Mental Illness
Mental illnesses, including depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, can also prematurely age a person. The National Institutes of Aging (NIA) says: “Mental illnesses in early life are linked to faster aging and worse health in later years.” In other words, people with mental health conditions have biologically older bodies.
15. Being Close-Minded
On an entirely different note, failure to be open to new ideas and ways of thinking plays a role in premature aging. One clarifies: “In that sense, I’ve known people who were instantly old the minute they graduated from college.” People who stop learning and experiencing new things are incapable of growth.
16. Prison Time
A former inmate in the forum admits to feeling like he aged far more than the four years he was locked away. The Prison Policy Initiative confirms: “A robust body of research shows that incarceration itself accelerates aging: people face more chronic and life-threatening illnesses earlier than we would expect outside of prison, and physiological signs of aging occur in people younger than expected.”
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Elizabeth Ervin is the owner of Sober Healing. She is a freelance writer passionate about opioid recovery and has celebrated breaking free since 09-27-2013. She advocates for mental health awareness and encourages others to embrace healing, recovery, and spirituality.