People who look younger than their actual age have a longer life expectancy than those who look their age, according to Danish scientists.
To reach this conclusion, Kaare Christensen of the University of Southern Denmark and colleagues asked nurses, teachers-in-training and peers to guess the age of 1,826 pairs of twins from their photos.
The twins were at least 70 years old when they were photographed.
For all 3 assessor groups, perceived age of the twins was associated with their survival, even after adjustment for chronological age, gender, pre-existing medical conditions, cognitive abilities and socioeconomic status.
Furthermore, the bigger the difference in perceived age within the pair, the more likely it became that the older looking twin died first.
The authors even provided a possible physiological explanation for their finding: key pieces of cellular DNA known as telomeres, which predict the ability of cells to replicate, were also linked to perceived age, the group found.
Shorter telomeres are associated with more rapid ageing, and the scientists found that people who looked younger had longer telomeres.
Christensen suggested to the BBC that people who have had a tougher life are more likely to die early – and that their life is reflected in their face.
“It’s probably a combination of genes plus environment over a lifetime that are important,” said UK professor Tim Spector, who has been doing similar research on twins. “We are also finding this in our study.”
The write-up is in the British Medical Journal.