Looking Younger Than Your Age May Mean Longer Life

Study links perceived age to physical, mental functioning

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MONDAY, Dec. 14 (HealthDay News) -- People who look younger than their age tend to live longer than those who look older than their years, a new study suggests.

The finding came from research that involved 1,826 Danish twins, aged 70 and older, who were given physical and cognitive tests and then had their faces photographed. Three groups of volunteers looked at the photos and indicated the age they perceived the participants to be. Twins were assessed individually, and on different days.

The researchers, from the University of Southern Denmark, then tracked the twins for seven years and found that perceived age was significantly associated with survival, even after adjustments were made for actual age, sex and the environment in which each pair of twins was raised. The bigger the difference in perceived age, the more likely it was that the older-looking twin died first, they noted.

The researchers also found an association between perceived age and physical and mental functioning.

Common genetic factors that influence both survival and perceived age may help explain the findings, the study authors explained.

"Perceived age -- which is widely used by clinicians as a general indication of a patient's health -- is a robust biomarker of aging that predicts survival among those aged 70 and older and correlates with important functional and molecular aging phenotypes," Kaare Christensen and colleagues wrote in their report, which was published Dec. 13 in the online edition of the BMJ.

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