50+ health * Healthy living

Looking young linked to longer life

Botox doesn't count!

People who look young for their age live longer than those who look old for their years, a study of nearly 2,000 twins has found.

Doctors often consider how well a patient looks for their age as a general indicator of good health, as it may reflect a healthy lifestyle. However, there is little evidence to support this, scientists say.

To test this, scientists from the University of Southern Denmark asked volunteers to estimate the age of 1,826 twins aged 70 or older in 2001.

Death records were then used to track the survival of the twins over a seven year period.

Even after adjusting for actual age, sex, and the environment in which each pair of twins grew up, perceived age was found to be linked with physical and mental agility as well as a genetic marker of ageing found in white blood cells.

The older a twin looked when compared to their sibling, the more likely it was that they would die first.

Although we can't influence how genes affect our appearance, the authors pointed out other "common health hazards" which cause us to look older for our age, including smoking, sunbathing and poor diet.

They concluded that someone's perceived age is "a robust biomarker of ageing that predicts survival among those aged 70 or over."

This article was published on Mon 14 December 2009

Image © © jwblinn - Fotolia.com

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