Feb 2 2006
According to Danish researchers, in order to hang on to your looks and retain a youthful demeanor all you need is happy family life and plenty of money.
Researchers from the University of Southern Denmark, looked at the combined effects of lifestyle, medical history and diet on the way that men and women age and they discovered that such factors affect by as much as seven years difference the way people age.
For the chubby ones out there it seems that a little extra weight actually helps a person look younger.
According to the researchers a happy marriage endows women with such benefits she looks almost two years younger by the time she reaches middle age, while men look up to a year younger.
Children in that happy marriage means fathers benefit by looking a year younger.
Not surprisingly having children appears to have little effect on a woman's looks possibly because women do most of the work and the benefits disappear in families with more than four children.
When both men and women belong to a higher social class huge benefits are gained with both looking up to four years younger than their true age.
Professor Kaare Christensen, lead author of the study suggests that high social status, low depression and being married are associated with a younger look, but says the strength of the associations varies between genders.
For the study, the researchers 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.
The scientists then compared the average age estimates with environmental factors such as marital status, parenthood, class and lifestyle choices.
They arrived at the conclusion that while looking young is an indicator of good health, looking old for one's age is associated with increased mortality.
Along with chronic asthma, diabetes and regularly taking painkillers,heavy consumption of alcohol was found to add a year on both men and women.
Too much sun was seen to add 1.3 years to a woman's perceived age while depression made them appear almost 4 years older and men more than 2 years older.
Rather surprisingly, smoking 20 cigarettes a day for 20 years was found to add only a year of extra wrinkles to men and 6 months to women.
Gaining a little extra weight with age, particularly for women, was found to have a positive effect in appearing youthful .
So in a nutshell if you are not depressed, not a smoker and not too skinny, you are on the right tracks!
The combination of the various factors may to some extent explain why some forty year olds may look considerably younger than others.
To sum up, a married woman with a high social status, who has spent little 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 far too long sun bathing.
The study will be published in the journal Age and Ageing.