Mental Health and Longevity2024-04-08

Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter.

Mark Twain

There are two types of aging, and conversely, two types of longevity. The passive mechanisms are better known, and are the ones people focus on. The active mechanisms are less known, and are related to mental health. Passive aging is the wear and tear of life. Active aging is the shutdown of biological machinery that occurs when people are despondent, all the way to suicidality. Passive longevity is avoiding damage, and having resilient repair and detoxification mechanisms. Active longevity is the turning on of cellular rebuilding and rejuvenation mechanisms that occurs when people are optimistic, and have a strong purpose for living.

We have uncovered the existence of these active mechanisms by serendipity, when we identified a set of gene expression biomarkers, modulated by mood and stress, that were shared between suicidality and longevity, but changed in opposite directions. We call this the “Life Switch”1. As such, mental health may influence longevity directly, not just as secondary consequences of poor lifestyle choices, addictions, and non-compliance with medical treatments. We used to say that there is no health without mental health, but it is increasingly likely there is no longevity without mental health either.


  1. Rangaraju S, Levey DF, Nho K, Jain N, Andrews KD, Le-Niculescu H et al. Mood, stress and longevity: convergence on ANK3. Mol Psychiatry 2016; 21(8): 1037-1049. PMID: 27217151.