A few extra pounds make you look youthful

Copenhagen: A little extra weight can make you look up to seven years younger, according to researchers in Denmark.

In addition a happy family life and plenty of money are also contribute to better ageing, says a study that examined the effects of lifestyle, medical history and diet on the way that men and women age.

The duty by scientists at the University of Southern, also discovered that a happy marriage can bring special benefits for a woman – making her look almost two years younger by the time she reaches middle age. Marital harmony can make men, in turn look up to a year younger. When there are children, fathers tend to look a year younger.

Having children has no perceived effect on a woman’s looks – possibly because women are more likely to take charge of the childcare – and the effects disappear in families with more than four children.

Belonging to a higher social class – with both looking up to four years younger than their true age.

Professor Kaare Christensen, lead author from the University of Southern Denmark, said the study revealed that high social status, low levels of depression and marriage were linked with a more youthful appearance.

The study, being published in Ae and Ageing, asked a group of nurses to guess the ages of 1,826 identical and non-identical twins, all in their seventies, after looking at photographs of their faces.

Scientists then compared the average age estimates with environmental factors such as marital status, parenthood, class and lifestyle choices.

They concluded that while looking young is an indicator of good health, looking old for one’s age is conversely associated with increased mortality.

Heavy drinking was found to put a year on the faces of both sexes along with chronic asthma, diabetes and regularly taking painkillers. Over-exposure to the sun was seen to add 1.3 years to a woman’s perceived age while depression made women look 3.9 years older and men 2.4 years older. Though 20 cigarettes a day for 20 years was found to add only a year of extra wrinkles to men and half that to women.

Contrary to popular expectation, however, putting on weight with age was found to have a positive effect on keeping a youthful appearance.

For men, adding two points to their body mass index can take a year off their age while women can benefit from the same effect by adding seven points to their BMI.

These findings support previous studies which show that non-genetic factors account for approximately 40 per cent of the variations in a person’s perceived age.

Professor Christensen added: ‘Our study confirms previous findings of a negative influence of sun exposure, smoking and a low BMI index on facial ageing.

‘It is a lot more dangerous looking one year older than being one year older.

‘If you are not depressed, not a smoker and not too skinny, you are basically doing well.’ Combining the various factors can explain why some people, for example those in their forties, can look substantially younger than their peers.

According to the study, a married woman with a high social status, who has not spent a lot of time in the sun, could look at least seven years younger than a woman who is single, of a low social class and has spent excessive time soaking up harmful rays.