My current ongoing science fiction project has FTL travel that is instantaneous for the ships and their crews, but still, usually, takes years of real-time in the rest of the universe. This is going to have an effect on crews as they are going to lose every contact they make off-ship with every jump they make. I've already assumed that ships crews will be separated from the rest of society; partly by a certain mystique but also by an isolationism that cuts both ways.

Crews on established circuit routes will usually take 20-30 years to complete a circuit back to a given port, often stopping for only a few weeks at most. Even the people who are still alive will not be the same people they left behind. Crews don't want to get attached to someone they'll likely never see again and people know they're unlikely to ever meet the same crewman twice. So crews will have minimal contact with the outside world, but I'm wondering what the long-term effects of repeatedly losing the few contacts they do make in port might be.

In particular: Would the symptoms from the repeated loss of all of a person's contacts outside their workplace simulate them aging prematurely, psychologically and/or physically?

Answers will need to be grounded in the known science of relationship loss and the long-term effects of repeated trauma and grief. The society is generally much like our own, which means that you're just as likely to find drug abuse, bigotry, and violence in a given population as we might expect to see today. The one other factor that may be important to note is that, apart from the ships themselves carrying message traffic, there are no FTL communications in this universe.

  • $\begingroup$ I commented on this I believe in the sandbox and you have it as an option here, of course people with certain issues tend to do certain things, like "drugs". And drugs, for example Cigarettes which have a reputation for being a friend for lonely people, let you age pretty fast. I find the question a bit strange this way, why don't you say "apart from drug abuse"? That's already one option $\endgroup$
    – Raditz_35
    Commented Sep 3, 2018 at 16:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Ash I bet you have read this. But if not, you should. Order a used copy from Thriftbooks. It is all about this question. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Forever_War $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented Sep 3, 2018 at 18:09
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "Would the symptoms from the repeated loss of all of a person's contacts outside their workplace simulate them aging prematurely, psychologically and/or physically?" Ask the men who went on long sea voyages in the Age of Sail. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Commented Sep 3, 2018 at 18:20
  • $\begingroup$ @RonJohn You got a proper answer to go with that very astute observation? $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 12:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Willk Yeah I've read both the Forever War stories but I'll read them again in light of this particular question, thanks for that. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 12:17

2 Answers 2


I don't think mental state matters very much at all to physical age.

As far as a world-building matter, for all the reason you state in your question; I would expect FTL travelers to not have any emotional ties at all with their planet-bound brethren.

They would be born on ship, fall in love on ship, marry and have children on ship. If all the ships spend the same number of minutes at FTL and at normal time, they will all age apparently the same. They would likely coordinate with each other to form an FTL culture, and get together periodically, particularly for finding mates. If their technology is good enough for FTL, it should be good enough for FTL communications, video, Internet, virtual reality, etc to sustain these relationships between ships, fleet-wide.

What happens to the planet plodders is of little concern to them socially, although any new tech, revolutions or wars would certainly be relayed to other ships for the nightly news. But for individuals: They would treat them as I treat any stranger I meet on a business trip, like a cab driver or fellow airplane passenger. Which for me is friendly and interested in their life, but also aware I will likely never see them again as long as I live. We each exist for the other in that moment, and part forever at "Nice to meet you, and good luck."

Every time they stop, your FTL crew are sailors on leave in a foreign port, and there is no home. The FTL ships are their home, and everybody they love, and everybody that loves them, is on one of these FTL ships.


One aspect that NASA has been researching for deep space missions is simulating and constructing interpersonal and social development. They have been looking into this simply because of the potential length of deep space missions as well as due to the understanding that we humans are very geared towards a pack/tribal mentality.

It would be reasonable to assume that such considerations would be made in your futuristic scenario. Such that crews would be both prepared for the severance of outside ties as well as designed to form their own social structure.

As for your actual question:

I have not seen any reasonable research that directly correlates mental state to physical aging. That being said, a depressed mental state can have negative physiological consequences due to chosen disengagement from beneficial activities like eating or exercise which can have some questionable impact on aging.


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