Research shows that the body’s DNA ages more quickly in people who are impatient - and women are particularly prone to the effect.
The finding comes from researchers in Singapore who put more than 1,000 healthy students through a test of patience. This involved a game in which they told they could either be given a gift of $100 the next day or wait a month for larger amount. They were then asked how much this would need to be for it to be worth waiting for.
The more money a volunteer said they would need wait, the less patient they were deemed to be.
So someone who said it would take $120 in a month’s time for them to wait, was judged as more patient than one who said they would hold off for $105.
The researchers zeroed in on tiny structures called telomeres. These are biological caps which are found at the ends of chromosomes and protect the DNA in them from damage, much like the caps on the ends of shoelaces prevent fraying.
As we get older, our telomeres get shorter and shorter, leading to DNA becoming damaged and raising the odds of age-related illness.
Shorter than average telomeres are seen as a sign of ill health and premature death and the structures are considered so important that the scientists who discovered them seven years ago were awarded a Nobel prize for medicine.
Now, research has shown there to be a clear link between shorter telomeres and impatience.
This stood even when other factors, including socio-economic status and how healthy a person’s lifestyle was, were taken into account.
It isn’t clear just how impatience speeds up ageing but it maybe that related to the stress associated with making hasty decisions.
Impatient people may also be drawn towards unhealthy lifestyles, and the study may have failed to fully account for this.
Differences in sex hormones may explain why women are particularly affected, the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports.
The researchers said that while it is possible that there is something about shorter telomeres that sparks impatience, they believe it to be more likely that hastiness causes the damage.
Professor Richard Ebstein, of the National University of Singapore, said: ‘With an increasing per centage of the world’s population “greying”, the determinants of successful ageing are of paramount importance.’