ANOTHER turn around the sun is usually cause for celebration – and lots of presents.
But according to a report from The Royal Society for Public Health, it's an occasion riddled with angst for 57 per cent of young adults who have developed a fear of ageing, known as gerascophobia.
Citing a steep health decline and loneliness as inevitable symptoms of growing older, millennials, in particular, are wary of the sands of time.
Three in five admit to doing all they can to fight the mental (62 per cent) and physical signs (60 per cent) of ageing compared to just half of Generation X (age 40-51).
While ageing is often deemed a privilege, it's hardly surprising the negative stigma of passing years has left a blemish on the biological process, particularly for women.
Men get dubbed 'silver foxes' and can age like a fine wine, but it is considered rude to even broach the question of age with women who attempt to fight time with an arsenal of beauty products.
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The global anti-ageing market is predicted to be worth £306bn by 2030.
And it's not just having an effect in our bathroom.
Professor Lynda Gratton declares that ageism in the workplace begins at 40 for women (45 for men) when employers stop looking at mature employees for promotions and pay rises.
A study by Polygraph even found actresses over 40 spoke just 20 per cent of dialogue in films compared to 38 per cent of their peers under.
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So, is it any wonder the younger generation is chasing eternal youth?
“Gerascophobia comes from the Greek word ‘tha geraso’, meaning, ‘I am going to get old’,” Dr Elena Touroni, a consultant psychologist and co-founder of My Online Therapy explains.
“The fear of growing old is nothing new and is natural to some extent, but there's a growing anxiety around the subject.
“Someone with gerascophobia will have persistent thoughts and worries about growing older, the effects of ageing on your physical appearance and will generally try to avoid conversations about it.”
One person not shying away from the subject is Tik Toker and age advocate Kate Beavis.
With over 55k followers, the 50-year-old is on a one-woman mission to break the stigma of getting older.
“Society has always fed the narrative that getting older is something to dread,” she says.
“Beauty campaigns advise us on how to ‘fight’ wrinkles and ageing, we have to not go grey, nor put on weight or stand out – something men are not told to do.
“I am here to celebrate getting older and to help women feel more confident without telling them to change who they are or what they look like.”
Lucy Sheridan, aka The Comparison Coach, says it's easy to feel like time is slipping away when we're constantly reminded of it through social media tools like Timehop and Instagram Archives.
Lucy said: “It provides a constant reminder of what other people are doing, being, experiencing and achieving and we rank that against ourselves.
“Functions like Timehop or even scrolling back a few months can stimulate harsh self-criticism as we become starkly aware of time passing, and how that shows in our appearance and feelings of inner vitality.
“Ageing perception goes well beyond our skin’s appearance but extends to what milestones we have and have not yet achieved and how ‘up for it’ we feel we are in our lives.”
A pressure to comply is one we can feel heavily in the race against time to travel, craft a career, be single but also experience meaningful relationships and to have considered a house and pensions.
But you also have to make sure you’re having enough fun at the same time.
BLAME THE RATRACE
Although a large contributing factor, Dr Elena suggests that age-related anxiety may have started long before our digital news feed.
“Childhood experiences and self-esteem can also play an important role in determining whether someone is vulnerable to feelings of inadequacy,” she says.
“Many of us have been socialised this way – getting good grades to get into the right school, to go on to a good university etc.
“These are all about reaching milestones by a particular age. In this way, we might end up defining ourselves – and our sense of self-worth – by what we have achieved at each point in our lives.
“This can turn into a race as we compete against our peers who have been subjected to the same pressures we have.”
So how can we arrive at a more accepting place when it comes to ageing?
“Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can really help. And also, get really clear on the life you want to live,” Lucy says.
“What do you want to achieve? What do you see in your work progression? Where do you want to travel? Who do you want to spend time with?
“Then make plans to align, connect and live these experiences – the more in flow you feel and aligned you are with the life you’re living, the more you will enjoy the process and feel comfortable in yourself.
“And surround yourself with people that lift you up and challenge and stimulate you to reach your potential – this builds confidence, contentment and feelings of momentum.”
Dr Elena encourages us to focus on the benefits of wisdom and practice gratitude. She said: “When we’re younger, there may be more excitement and novelty as everything is new.
“But as we grow older, we find more value in the depth of our relationships/friendships, more satisfaction at work as we progress in our chosen field, in family life and children etc.
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“It’s about connecting to your overarching goals and values in life and then finding what will give you a sense of meaning in each life stage.
“Take stock of all the things you have achieved already and limit or even delete social media if it's triggering – it's about acknowledging that something is causing you harm and to take action against it.”
7 ways to embrace ageing
Kate outlines her top tips to stop clock-watching:
- Remember that ageing is a gift that many don't have. Celebrate your birthdays with a passion rather than hiding your actual age or not wanting to talk about it.
- Understand that our bodies change as our hormones decline. Do your research on what the symptoms are and get help. Don't take no for an answer.
- Dress how you like, and not how society tells you to. If you want to wear bright colours and red lippy, then do it.
- Look after yourself. Eat healthy food and drink lots of water to feel better on the inside and out. But do enjoy yourself too – life is for living so eat the cake if you want to!
- Surround yourself with the people you want to spend the next 30 years with, and stop putting up with people who make you feel bad about yourself. Life is too short!
- You are going to get wrinkles but that's OK. Ageing doesn't need to be fought but celebrated.
- Take the pressure off. You don't have to do everything before your next birthday. You have time and you don't want to miss out on the here and now.
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