People who look young for their age enjoy a longer life than those who look older than their years.
According to researchers, doctors frequently use perceived age as a general indication of a patient's health. They note however, that there is little research upon which to base validity of the belief.
Researchers at the University of Southern Denmark, examined whether perceived age is linked with survival. They investigated important age related traits, such as physical and mental (cognitive) functioning and a molecular biomarker of aging (leukocyte telomere length).
Telomere length indicates the ability of the body's cells to reproduce. Shorter length is associated with a host of diseases related to aging, lifestyle factors and death.
A total of 1,826 Danish twins aged 70 years and over underwent physical and cognitive tests in the spring of 2001. Their faces were also photographed. Assessors rated the perceived age of the twins from their facial photographs. The assessors did not know the age range of the twins. In addition, each twin of a pair had their age assessed on different days.
Following the assessments, death records were used to track the survival of the twins over a seven year period. Perceived age was significantly associated with longer life survival. This was true even after adjusting for chronological age, sex, and the environment in which each pair of twins grew up. Perceived age, adjusted for chronological age and sex, also correlated with physical and cognitive functioning as well as leukocyte telomere length.
Also, the bigger the difference in perceived age within a twin pair, the more likely it was that the older looking twin died first. The age, sex and professional background of the assessors had no relevance to any of the results.
The researchers concluded that perceived age based on facial photographs is a strong biomarker of ageing. It predicts survival among people aged 70 years and over and correlates with important functional and molecular age related characteristics.
Report gathered by the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance.