The AtlanticThe Atlantic

The puzzling gap between how old you are and how old you think you are

By Jennifer Senior

23 Feb 2023 · 9 min read

Editor's Note

“How old are you in your head?” A Danish study suggests adults over 40 perceive themselves to be about 20 percent younger than their actual age. A writer for The Atlantic explains why that is.

This past Thanksgiving, I asked my mother how old she was in her head. She didn’t pause, didn’t look up, didn’t even ask me to repeat the question, which would have been natural, given that it was both syntactically awkward and a little odd. We were in my brother’s dining room, setting the table. My mother folded another napkin. “Forty-five,” she said.

She is 76.

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