The author Gabriel Garcia Mðrquez might be credited with coining the phrase "Age isn't how old you are but how old you feel," yet we would venture many more people are familiar with those words than have read the Colombian Nobel Prize winner's works.

Or at least a variation along the lines of "You're as young as you feel."

The philosophy is not mere vapid optimism. Statistics back it up.

According to a Tribune News Service story, two British researchers published the results of an aging study that examined whether being young or feeling young was more important. In Monday's JAMA Internal Medicine magazine, the conclusion of a years-long study was sobering: People who feel younger than their actual age live longer. Individuals self-identifying as feeling older than they actually are simply don't live as long.

The English Longitudinal Study of Ageing tracked thousands of 52-year-olds and older for an average of 99 months, repeatedly querying "How old do you feel you are?"

The researchers controlled the study for variables such as heightened anxiety about impending death, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, depression, smoking, drinking, spending time engaged in social activities, gender, ethnicity, education and wealth. The end result was the same every time: The risk of death was 41 percent higher for the people who felt older than for the people who felt younger.

Talk about the power of positive thinking. One's attitude significantly increases not only how much life can by enjoyed, but how long you get to enjoy it.

The researchers are hoping their findings will change the way health-care professionals approach particular patients.

"Individuals who feel older than their actual age could be targeted with health messages promoting positive health behaviors and attitudes toward aging," the study's authors suggested.

While that should have positive results, we'd recommend individuals take it upon themselves to change their outlook if necessary. Feeling young is a powerful self-medication. We now have the research that backs it up.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net