The research was published in the Journal of Modern Foreign Psychology.
Scientists from the Moscow State University of Psychology and Education (MSUPE) conducted a long-term study of the biopsychological age of adults – a branch of science that explores how the brain and nervous system influence human behaviour, including somatic and psychological health, and the ratio between personal and physiological characteristics and age norms. The concept of biopsychological age can be determined by using two scales: biological age and psychological age.
Experts explained that the first measurement was carried out in 2019 and the second in 2020 (after six months of quarantine). They distinguished stress factors including disease, post-traumatic stress, quarantine factors (social isolation, malnutrition, decreased physical activity, anxiety). The study involved working adults from 35 years old, working pensioners, and non-working pensioners with chronic diseases.
To analyse psychological age, the scientists used the so-called psychological age self-assessment method, which involved participants in the experiment rating their age on a 100-point scale and the relative biological ageing index – experts then used the results to correlate the psychological and actual ages of the subjects. Negative values indicate that the subject felt younger than their actual age.
"The study has shown that after six months of quarantine most of the working respondents felt subjectively younger than they really are and younger than they felt a year ago before quarantine," Tatyana Berezina, professor of the Department of Scientific Basis of Extreme Psychology at MSUPE said.
According to her, on average, adult women started to feel 3.3 years younger and retired women 7.2 years younger; adult men – 6.8 years younger and retired men – 4.7 years younger.
The relative biological ageing index (the ratio of biological age to expected biological age) assesses a person's biological age compared to their statistical age limit using health indicators. The researchers used indicators of various organ systems to measure each subject's biological age: blood pressure, deep inspiration breath-hold, static balancing on one leg with eyes closed, body weight, and subjective assessment of diseases.
“It's an interesting fact that in the group of pensioners with chronic diseases the biological age has not changed, while in groups of working adults the biological age increased by more than one year, which would be expected in normal ageing conditions,” Berezina noted.
The influence of quarantine on the indicators of somatic health, according to the scientists, was varied. The bodyweight of women did change during quarantine, while the self-assessment of health among men and women of all groups remained at the same level as well. Some health indicators even improved during quarantine: blood pressure and pulse rate indicators of working adult women and pensioners with chronic diseases normalised in many cases; systolic blood pressure (artery pressure at the moment of heartbeat) of men also returned to normal levels in several subjects.
"Quarantine has had a strong negative impact on the physical development of individuals. People started to do less sport or even stopped doing it and, in general, began to move less. That is why the physical condition of the body became poor. The duration of static balancing (person's ability to stand on one leg with eyes closed) decreased in all groups," Berezina said.
The researchers noted that the duration of static balancing decreased in working adult women – by 26 per ent, in non-working pensioners-chronicles – by 13 percent. The figures also decreased for working adult men – by 37 percent. Expiratory breath-hold duration also decreased in non-working pensioners with chronic diseases by 4 percent.
The study was carried out with the financial support of the Russian Science Foundation, project No. 19-18-00058.