Mind over matter, it seems, can improve everything from blood pressure to arthritis and eyesight.

Even the development of heart disease and cancer may, at least to a degree, be staved off by refusing to grow old gracefully.

The intriguing claims come from researchers at Harvard University, who reviewed a series of studies into how the mind influences the body.

In one experiment, elderly men were “transported” back to 1959 for a week. They lived in accommodation fitted out in the decor of the 1950s, were played TV shows and music of the time and told to talk and act as if they were living then.

By the end of the week, the men were perceived to look about three years younger. Their hearing and eyesight improved, arthritic joints were more flexible, muscles were stronger and minds sharper.

The experiment echoes a TV series The Young Ones, in which celebrities spent a week in a house fitted out in the style of 1975 – when they were in their prime.