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London - You're as young as you feel – and feeling younger could stop you being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, researchers claim.

A study has found older people who think they are over the hill had worse scores in memory tests.

They were five times more likely to end up with a diagnosis of dementia, simply because of their attitude towards ageing.

In contrast, people of a similar age who felt younger got better scores.

The findings from researchers at the University of Exeter suggest attitudes towards ageing could have a huge impact on dementia diagnosis.

The study was presentedat the International Conference on Social Identity and Health at the university.

It involved 68 people, aged between 60 and 70 years, who were primed to either feel older or younger than other test participants.

Those in the “older” group were told participants ranged from 40 to 70 years, encouraging them to think of themselves as being at the upper end of the age spectrum.

Those in the “younger” group were told the ages of participants ranged from 60 to 90 years, which encouraged them to think of themselves as younger than everyone else.

All participants were then given one of two articles to read, which either focused on the effects of age on memory or the impact of ageing on general brain functioning.

The participants then completed a series of standard clinical tests, including a well established dementia screening test that is used in many GP surgeries and NHS memory clinics to assist diagnosis.

The startling findings showed 70 percent of people who were encouraged to see themselves as older and to believe that ageing was associated with a general decline in ability met the criterion for dementia. In comparison, just 14 percent of those primed to see themselves as being “younger” fitted the diagnosis.

Lead author, Dr Catherine Haslam, said people who see themselves as “older” could be labelled as having dementia as a result of their attitude.

She said: “Our research shows that the effect of age perceptions on performance can be dramatic, and that seeing oneself as ‘older’ significantly increases a person’s risk of being diagnosed with dementia on such tests.

“It highlights the importance of taking a person’s attitude towards their age into account when assessing for dementia.” -Daily Mail