Page last updated at 10:01 GMT, Monday, 14 December 2009

People who look young for their age 'live longer'

Leonardo Di Caprio
Fresh-faced actor Leonardo Di Caprio might expect a long life

People blessed with youthful faces are more likely to live to a ripe old age than those who look more than their years, work shows.

Danish scientists say appearance alone can predict survival, after they studied 387 pairs of twins.

The researchers asked nurses, trainee teachers and peers to guess the age of the twins from mug shots.

Those rated younger-looking tended to outlive their older-looking sibling, the British Medical Journal reports.

Survival advantage

The researchers also found a plausible biological explanation for their results.

Key pieces of DNA called telomeres, which indicate the ability of cells to replicate, are also linked to how young a person looks.

Perceived age, which is widely used by clinicians as a general indication of a patient's health, is a robust biomarker of ageing that predicts survival among those aged over 70
The report authors

A telomere of shorter length is thought to signify faster ageing and has been linked with a number of diseases.

In the study, the people who looked younger had longer telomeres.

All of the twins were in their 70s, 80s or 90s when they were photographed.

Over a seven-year follow-up the researchers, led by Professor Kaare Christensen of the University of Southern Denmark, found that the bigger the difference in perceived age within a pair, the more likely it was that the older-looking twin died first.

The age, sex and professional background of the assessors made no difference to any of the results.

It's probably a combination of genes plus environment over a lifetime that are important
UK expert Professor Tim Spector

Professor Christensen said it might be that people who have had a tougher life are more likely to die early - and their life is reflected in their face.

The researchers told the BMJ: "Perceived age, which is widely used by clinicians as a general indication of a patient's health, is a robust biomarker of ageing that predicts survival among those aged over 70."

Professor Tim Spector, a UK expert who has been doing his own twin research, said: "We are also finding this in our study.

"It's probably a combination of genes plus environment over a lifetime that are important."

He said the findings also show that people are good at assessing how well someone is and that doctors should eyeball their patients.

"If a patient looks older than their years then perhaps they should be more concerned," he said.



Print Sponsor


SEE ALSO
Men's genes 'may limit lifespan'
02 Dec 09 |  Health
Mutant genes 'key to long life'
15 Nov 09 |  Health
Educated women 'aid long life'
05 Oct 09 |  Health

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
People's Daily Online Study: Looking young may mean living longer - 2 hrs ago
US News Looking Younger Than Your Age May Mean Longer Life - 17 hrs ago
New Zealand Herald Study finds young-looking live longer - 20 hrs ago
Mail Online UK Are you a baby face? Then you'll live to a ripe old age - 37 hrs ago
The Independent If you look young, you'll live longer - 38 hrs ago



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific