Stress of achieving academic goals may make you age quicker, research finds

'Those with high self-control - who meet constant academic targets - have cells that are biologically old relative to their chronological age'

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The Independent Online

Young people from low income families can pay a price for succeeding academically - with their health, according to new research.

A study by researchers at Northwestern University, a private research university in Illinois, United States, says the stress of achieving academic goals can often lead to a health toll on individuals - meaning they age quicker.

“We find that the psychologically successful adolescents - those with high self-control (who meet constant academic targets) have cells that are biologically old relative to their chronological age,” said Gregory E.Miller, professor of psychology at the university’s Weinberg College of Arts and sciences, who was the lead author of the research.

He added it showed succeeding against the odds could therefore be a “double-edged sword”.

The researchers looked at approximately 300 African-American teenagers as they made the transition from adolescence to adulthood. 

The bonus for them was that those who succeeded academically were less depressed, used substances less often and were less aggressive.

However Professor Miller added: “As disadvantaged youth strive for favourable life outcomes, they have substantial barriers to overcome and competing demands to balance, including resource-deprived schools, family obligations, and managing social identity threats.  These challenges are particularly salient for African-Americans."

Skin-deep resilience: self-control forecasts better psychosocial outcomes but faster epigenetic aging in low (income) youth was published in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.