Youthful Baby Face the Key to a Longer Life?
Scientists from the University of Southern Denmark conducted a study to determine whether or not how old a person looks is an indicator of their general health. The researchers studied facial photographs of twins to see if perceived age -- basically how old others think you are -- is linked with a longer lifespan.
According to their findings, perceived age is strongly associated with survival: Even after adjusting for chronological age, sex and the environment in which each pair of twins grew up, perceived age correlated with other age-related traits, such as physical and brain function. Essentially, researchers found that looking older than you really are may mean a shorter lifespan.
"It's probably easy to explain because people who've had a tougher life are more likely to die early -- and their life is reflected in their face," said team leader Kaare Christensen, a professor at the University.
It can also be explained by lifestyle choices, according to Sandra Fryhofer, M.D., clinical associate professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine and past president of the American College of Physicians.
"These results are more than skin deep," she said. "Our outward reflection is a sign of what's going on inside our body. When we take care of ourselves by staying away from alcohol, not smoking, using sunscreen, eating right, exercising and keeping weight and stress under control -- we not only feel better, but we look better."
Does the study findings mean people may actually be able to influence the way they age on the outside?
"Everyone would love to know the secret to the fountain of youth," said Dr. Fryhofer. "There is a lot of hard work behind it -- exercising, eating good food. We didn't get a lot of details on how the twins in the study took care of their bodies, but we can presume that the one who did more positive things looked younger."
"Positive things" -- such as less stress and healthy behavioral and environmental factors -- can have a big effect on just how fast our faces age, according to a separate twin study published earlier this year in "Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery." Researchers found that smoking, sun exposure and divorce were factors that contributed to one twin appearing older than the other.
The findings were published in the "British Medical Journal."