Does time go faster as you age?

02 November 2008


I’ve noticed as I’ve grown older that time feels like it’s moving faster than when I was growing up. Is there any reason for this and what is it?


We put this to John Wearden, Professor of Psychology, Keele

The question posed is a simple question but it has a complicated answer and it's not a thing that's been researched in any great detain unfortunately. The commonest anecdote seems to be a kind of paradoxical statement about time where older people report that hours seem to drag but the months pass very quickly. In other words time seems to pass rather slowly when they're experiencing it but in retrospect seems to have flashed past very quickly. How can this happen? The feeling that time passing - whether time's passing quickly or slowly while you're listening to me, for example, generally seems to be governed by the activities that occupy the time period. If you're watching an exciting film, for example time seems to pass very quickly. If you're in some very boring situation time seems to pass very slowly. SO when you look backwards over the day it seems very long when there are a lot of activities. Whereas if there are very few activities, particularly very few new activities, it may appear retrospectively very short. The time paradox in older people: both the slowness of time as experienced as it passes and the retrospective feeling that it's flashing past may be caused by a general tendency for older people to have fewer novel life experiences than they do when they're younger. That seems to account for both the apparently paradoxical aspects of time experienced in aging.

Add a comment