Look younger, live longer, says study

Mind over matter

Look younger, live longer, says study


People whose faces belie their real age also live longer, enjoy better health, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal. The research was conducted among 1,826 twins in Denmark aged 70 or older.

“Our study shows that in a group of people aged over 70, perceived age is a strong indicator of mortality after adjustment for chronological age. We anticipate that the effect might be even more pronounced in middle age,” conclude the authors, led by Professor Kaare Christensen, an expert on ageing at the University of Southern Denmark.

The researchers reached their conclusions after getting  assessors to estimate the age of the subjects by looking at photographs of their faces in 2001, then seeing which of the twins had died by the time a follow-up was done in 2008.

Factors such as smoking, exposure to sunshine, depression and low socio-economic status are known to contribute to ageing, while being married, high social status, lack of depression and a low body mass index (BMI) all help preserve a more youthful appearance.

Genetic factors explain the difference in survival and perceived age, and influence skin appearance and the risk of heart attack, say the authors. They pinpointed the length of someone’s leucocyte telomeres, molecular biomarkers of ageing which reveal how capable cells are of replicating, as being key to the process.

Shorter length is associated with a range of diseases linked to ageing. Subjects in the study with longer ones were likely to enjoy fewer health problems, longer life and retain full cognitive function for longer, the study found. It was undertaken to see if doctors are right to draw negative conclusions about a patient’s health prospects because they look older than they are.

“When assessing health, physicians traditionally compare perceived and chronological age, and for adult patients the expression ‘looking old for your age’ is an indicator of poor health,”  say Christensen.

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