a study links our appearance to our health

Is the aging of body and mind reflected in our oval? This is what a recent Dutch study suggests, conducted using a panel of photographs and published on Tuesday, January 10 in British Journal of Dermatology.

Looking younger or older than your age is a very subjective observation that often comes from the eyes of others. Only in reality it can be an indication of our state of health. This is the conclusion of Dutch researchers from Erasmus University in Rotterdam. By asking people to estimate the age of other people based on their photographs and then comparing their medical data, the researchers found that looking older is associated with an increased risk of health-related problems. These results were published on 10 January i British Journal of Dermatology .

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Perceived age, a reflection of internal aging?

To reach these conclusions, the team of scientists collected facial and profile images of 2,769 women and men of European origin aged 51 to 87. These photos were submitted to a panel of 27 people who were responsible for judging the age of the models based solely on their appearance. Each photographed individual was assigned a score, calculated from the difference between their real age and their perceived age. The higher this score, the younger the person appeared to the respondents.

These scores were then examined by the researchers in light of the lifestyle data of the photographed models. Among this information we found body mass index, tobacco consumption or UV exposure. The medical history was also examined. Renal, cardiovascular, pulmonary, muscle, bone, ocular and auditory pathologies… Nothing was excluded, even cognitive abilities were measured.

If you look younger than you are, the health of your organ systems, body and mind will likely reflect this.

Tamar Nijsten, professor at Erasmus University Rotterdam and lead author of the study

After analysis, the researchers found that “looking older than one’s (actual) age was associated with a higher mortality rate,” read the study’s conclusions.

In people who looked five years younger, the researchers found no major health problems. Specifically, perception was associated with a lower risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), osteoporosis, cataracts, and age-related hearing loss. Looking younger was also associated with better overall cognitive function, the researchers confirm in their press release.

A promising diagnostic index

“If you look younger than you are, the health of your organ systems, body and mind is likely to reflect this,” comments Professor Tamar Nijsten, lead author of the study. “It’s not a definitive study, but it’s probably the best study to date that provides evidence that perceived age also reflects internal aging,” he continues.

According to the researchers, the perception of age is therefore promising and can be considered a serious diagnostic index. However, further studies should be considered. In fact, the sample observed by the Erasmus University in Rotterdam was mainly composed of people from north-western Europe. Future research should therefore extend their studies and extend it to populations with more diverse ethnic origins.

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