Younger facial looks are associate with a lower likelihood of several age-related morbidities in the middle-aged to elderly

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BACKGROUND: Looking older for one's chronological age is associated with a higher mortality rate. Yet it remains unclear how perceived facial age relates to morbidity and the degree to which facial ageing reflects systemic ageing of the human body.

OBJECTIVES: To investigate the association between ΔPA and age-related morbidities of different organ systems, where ΔPA represents the difference between perceived age (PA) and chronological age.

METHODS: We performed a cross-sectional analysis on data from the Rotterdam Study, a population-based cohort study in the Netherlands. High-resolution facial photographs of 2679 men and women aged 51.5-87.8 years of European descent were used to assess PA. PA was estimated and scored in 5-year categories using these photographs by a panel of men and women who were blinded for chronological age and medical history. A linear mixed model was used to generate the mean PAs. The difference between the mean PA and chronological age was calculated (ΔPA), where a higher (positive) ΔPA means that the person looks younger for their age and a lower (negative) ΔPA that the person looks older. ΔPA was tested as a continuous variable for association with ageing-related morbidities including cardiovascular, pulmonary, ophthalmological, neurocognitive, renal, skeletal and auditory morbidities in separate regression analyses, adjusted for age and sex (model 1) and additionally for body mass index, smoking and sun exposure (model 2).

RESULTS: We observed 5-year higher ΔPA (i.e. looking younger by 5 years for one's age) to be associated with less osteoporosis [odds ratio (OR) 0.76, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.62-0.93], less chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (OR 0.85, 95% CI 0.77-0.95), less age-related hearing loss (model 2; B = -0.76, 95% CI -1.35 to -0.17) and fewer cataracts (OR 0.84, 95% CI 0.73-0.97), but with better global cognitive functioning (g-factor; model 2; B = 0.07, 95% CI 0.04-0.10).

CONCLUSIONS: PA is associated with multiple morbidities and better cognitive function, suggesting that systemic ageing and cognitive ageing are, to an extent, externally visible in the human face.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)390-395
Number of pages6
JournalBritish Journal of Dermatology
Issue number3
Early online date10 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of British Association of Dermatologists.


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