Average person believes they hit peak health at 34, began noticing signs of aging at 42

NEW YORK — When did you start noticing those gray hairs, wrinkles, and unexplained aches? Research shows the average American begins to notice the signs of aging at the age of 42, but 15 percent noticed themselves getting older before age 35.

That’s according to a new poll of 2,000 Americans with representative samples for Gen Z, millennials, Gen-X, and baby boomers, where respondents believe they were at the peak of their health at the age of 34. On top of that, 46 percent of Gen X were unaware they couldn’t engage in the same fitness or diet regimens as they could when they were younger until they were over 40.

While respondents start noticing they need to make changes to their health and wellness routines around the age of 39, one in five admit they’re currently in denial about their body aging. Another 30 percent of respondents admit they used to be in denial, but they’ve since accepted it.

Of those respondents, 61 percent put off making necessary routine changes for three to six years, while 29 percent put it off for up to two years.

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Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of evidence-based weight care program, Found, the survey found that things like joint pain (39%), the onset of chronic conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes (37%), slower metabolism (35%), or where respondents carry their weight (30%) are some of the top indicators that respondents believe are signs of aging.

Who’s doing more to fight aging?

With these noticeable changes in mind, many respondents are making adjustments to their health and wellness routines. Overall, 36 percent are updating the types of vitamins and supplements they take, with baby boomers (41%) being the most likely generation to do so. Two in five (40%) baby boomers are changing the types of food they eat, with 34 percent of Gen X doing the same. Even 30 percent of Gen Z are doing so, despite being relatively young.

Thirty-one percent of all respondents are fine-tuning what types of exercises they do as they get older. Millennials might be getting ahead of aging more than others, with that generation being more likely to do so than any other (36%), including Gen X (31%) and baby boomers (30%).

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Millennials were also the most likely generation to practice meditation or mindfulness, especially when compared to baby boomers (30% vs 21%). While about one-quarter (24%) found making those adjustments difficult, 46 percent found it to be an easy process.

That doesn’t mean respondents aren’t looking for guidance however, as 35 percent tend to lean on their primary care physician and specialty doctors (30%).

“While aging is inevitable, making healthy changes to your lifestyle are preventative care measures that can help mitigate age-related issues like weight gain and chronic conditions. Over the past 100 years we have nearly doubled our life expectancy, so it’s crucial to be proactive about extending our health span as well as our lifespan,” says Dr. Rekha Kumar, Chief Medical Officer at Found, in a statement. “Programs that incorporate guidance to not only help people manage their weight, but also improve overall lifestyle habits, such as improved sleep, daily movement or taking care of their mental health, can help people maintain their health as they age.”

1 in 3 say aging bothers them

While aging may be inevitable, respondents outlined mixed feelings about it. Almost three in 10 (29%) admit they’re either stressed or anxious about aging, while some are confident (25%) about the inevitability. In fact, 41 percent of respondents have experienced shame or embarrassment when discussing their changing health and wellness with their primary care physician, with 47 percent of millennial respondents experiencing this.

Even so, 31 percent also say they trust their doctor the most when it comes to advice about maintaining a healthy weight as they age.

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Almost two-thirds (64%) agree that they struggle with their body not only not looking like it used to, but also not feeling the same either. Although 39 percent are happy with their current weight, one in five were happiest between the ages of 20 and 30.

“Research has found that the stories we tell ourselves about our weight and our motivations to make lifestyle changes dramatically affect how successful and satisfied we are with those changes,” says Laura Garcia, Director of Clinical Design at Found.

“We are so used to focusing on what we want to get rid of, and not what we want to gain. Positive lifestyle changes give us the opportunity to feel better about our bodies now and, most importantly, allow us to continue doing what we care about in the long-term. If we are motivated by extending our health and preventing the negative effects of our lifestyle on our bodies, we will be more likely to maintain these changes over the years–which is key for sustainable weight loss and overall health.”

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Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 2,007 Americans, with 448 Gen Z (ages 18-25), 485 millennials (ages 26-41), 511 Gen-X (41-57) and 563 baby boomers (ages 58-76) was commissioned by Found between September 1 and September 12, 2022. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).

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