Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?

Your face gives away your lifestyle and hides your real age


Ladies who lunch

If you’re married, have fewer than four children, and come from a higher social class – you probably look younger than you actually are.

If you have lost a significant amount of weight, fallen down the social ladder, or are living as a lonely singleton – then you probably look older.

The combination of lifestyle, medical history and diet has a measurable impact on how your looks age.

Generally speaking a youthful face is an accurate indicator of good health (as is how energetically you walk).

Marriage is more beneficial for a woman knocking almost two years off her age (and if she moves up the social ladder she can look four years younger – and the same applies to men).

For men marriage generally only knocks off one year but having one to three children makes a man look a year younger while it makes no difference to a woman.

These benefits disappear in families with four children.

Looking chubbier as you get older helps men look younger as it smooths out the wrinkles. Adding 2 points to your body mass index (bmi) will take off a year whereas a woman would have to add 7 points to her bmi to get the same effect.

An affluent married man with no more than three children will look ten years younger than someone who is homeless, single and has lost weight (2 points off his bmi).

All the factors combined can lead to people in their 40s looking up to seven years younger than their contemporaries.

Public Health scientists at the Danish twin registry led the study published in the journal Age and Ageing.

They asked nurses to guess the ages of almost 2,000 identical and non-identical twins in their seventies. They then looked at environmental factors including marriage, parenthood and social class. Previous studies have shown that non-genetic factors account for 40% of the variation in perceived age.

The effects of heavy smoking are relatively  modest. You would have to smoke 20 a day for 20 years to gain extra wrinkles and tobacco smoke only causes half that damage to women’s skin.

However heavy drinking can add a year to both sexes as can diabetes, chronic asthma or the regular use of painkillers.

Excessive exposure to sunlight had no effect on the perception of men’s ages but added over a year to women’s faces by the time they reached seventy.

Depression makes women look a lot older than men. Almost 4 extra years compared with 2.4 for men.

One of the researchers, Dr Kaare Christensen, said “It is a lot more dangerous looking one year older than one year younger”. If you are not depressed, not lonely, not a smoker, and not too skinny, you are basically doing well”.

Dr Chris Philipson, professor of social gerontology at Keele University says “diet and exercise are crucial factors. You can do an awful lot over the age of 40 to 50 to change the way you experience growing old“.

Originally posted by me on ULearn2BU in 2014


If you really have to make new year resolutions..

here are some sensible ones from Dr Mark Porter who writes for the Times (with my own comments added):looking_in_mirror_1600_wht_5647

  1. Get a tape measure and measure your waist. This should be less than half your height to maintain good health. Body Mass Index (bmi) is so out-of-date as I’ve written before.
  2. Buy a blood pressure monitor as one in three of us develops high blood pressure which often requires lifelong treatment. Taking your BP at home may be more accurate than if taken in a stressful environment such as a hospital or GP’s surgery (the well-known white coat effect).
  3. Buy a petrol car next time as diesel has been proved to be dirtier fuel and unhealthy in built-up areas
  4. Learn what sepsis looks like. Blood poisoning or septicaemia as it was once called kills thousands of people a year. It typically starts with bacterial infections of the chest, abdomen, or urinary tract. You can get it at any age and it often mimics flu or gastroenteritis. Doing a SEPSIS test means looking for Slurred speech,Extreme shivering or muscle aches, Passing no urine (in a day), Severe breathlessness, “I feel like I might die”, Skin mottled or discoloured and any rash that doesn’t blanch under pressure from glass tumbler.
  5. Check your heart age. Go to nhs.uk/conditions/nhs-health-check/pages/check-your-heart-age-tool.aspx or download a free heart risk app fromwww.jbs3risk.com. These might prompt you to change your diet and lifestyle habits.
  6. Eat more nuts. More evidence that a good intake of nuts (no more than a handful a day but not salted peanuts) is associated with a longer, healthier life. I’ve blogged about nuts before.
  7. Get stronger. Build strength as strong muscles are good for arthritis and thinning bones, reduce the risk of falling and can prevent pain. Exercise is good at any age but don’t overdo it.
  8. Make Saturday at home an internet-free day. Get people off the screens and doing something together. Why not the whole weekend? In France they have banned firms e-mailing staff outside working hours which is a good move as well.
  9. Cook more. Use fresh food rather than relying on processed food. And invest in the future by teaching your kids.
  10. Give up vaping. Although less hazardous than smoking the long-term inhalation of glycols is bound to have some impact on your lungs. Some experts say it helps people give up smoking. Fine but don’t keep on vaping. In any case people who vape in public look like prats.

A more serious North-South Divide

money_war_pound_pc_1600_wht_4731I’ve posted before on the North-South Divide but this is more serious.

First the economy. Professor of human geography Danny Dorling, at the University of Sheffield, says the government has paid far too much attention to the eurozone crisis and the banking sector in London. In the meantime the difference in economic growth between the North and South has become a chasm and the split is growing at its fastest rate since WWII.

While there has been economic recovery in the South there is little evidence of that in the North. Since the recession in 2008 the London economy has grown 12% compared to less than 3% in the East Midlands and less than 4% in Yorkshire. In Greater London 7% of shops are empty compared to twice that proportion in Yorkshire. Public sector job cuts have been more severe in the North of England. Many years ago public sector jobs were moved to  the Northern regions as part of an economic strategy to boost employment.

And when it comes to qualifications 30% of adults in London have degrees compared to half that in Liverpool and Newcastle-on-Tyne. At the other end of the age range pensioners also fare less well withmedian household wealth in the North-East of £226,000 compared to £317,000 nationally and £433,000 in the South-East.

You would expect the labour party to be making a fuss about this but Ed Miliband has ordered his party keep quiet so as not to alienate voters in the South which would undermine his “one nation” message. So political PR trumps economical reality!

stick_figure_deceased_1600_wht_7906Secondly health. People living in Manchester, Blackpool and other parts of the North-West are at much greater risk of dying than people in the South-East. The Longer Lives website from Public Health England shows that highest risk of premature death is linked with deprived areas.

Comparing 150 councils Manchester has the highest mortality rate and Bracknell, in Berkshire, the lowest. Manchester also has the highest early death rate with the highest rates for cancer, heart disease and stroke. Wokingham has less than half that rate.

There are estimated to be over 100,00 avoidable early deaths in England each year with the four leading killers: cancer, heart disease, stroke and lung & liver disease, accounting for 75% of them.

70% of early deaths are linked to deprivation and 57% to smoking.

Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, said this “shocking variation” can’t continue unchecked. “I want areas to use the data to identify local public health challenges like smoking, drinking and obesity, and to take action to help achieve our ambition for saving 300,000 lives a year by 2020”

If  you go on to the Longer Livers website you can type in your postcode and see how your area compares nationally. You can also get advice on diet, smoking and drinking.

Public Health has now been transferred from the NHS to local government and the data from the website allows councils to compare themselves with each other and learn from their health promotion schemes although the Local Government Association is worried about creating a league table.

And finally on the question of ill-health it turns out that southerners are wimps when it comes to taking time off work! 80% of employees in the North-West turned up for work every day in the last three month compared to only 65% in London.

Adeco, the recruitment agency which carried out the survey, excused Londoners by saying that people in the North didn’t live on top of each other as they did in London where people came into contact with more people and more disease on the Tube.

Overall 30% of workers were off sick for 1 day in the three months surveyed. There were marked differences by age group with 60% of 16-24 year olds taking at least one sick day but fewer than 20% of over-55s. This is probably explained by life-style differences. Other research shows that young, single males take more time off work than older married workers.

Why Germans beat us to the towels

DSCN1245At last it can be revealed.

Apparently Germans need less sleep than us.

Although only 8 minutes less than the UK average of seven hours and 21 minutes they start work 30 minutes earlier.

And Germans spring out of bed 15 minutes after there alarm goes off whereas we Brits snooze for 20 minutes.

Professors Russell Foster, a University of Oxford neuroscientist, presented his findings into the sleeping habits of over 75,000 Germans and Brits earlier this year at The Cheltenham Science Festival.

He thinks Brits are actually more in tune with their bodies and will suffer less “social jetlag” and be more creative at work as employers are more flexible in the UK about start times which are usually 0800 in Germany.

He also found that despite centralised time zones people’s body clocks still wake up according to when the sun reaches its zenith. So people in the West, where the sun is highest in the afternoon, wake up later than those in the East where the sun is at its highest point at noon.

He also looked at obesity and drinking and smoking habits. Germans are less overweight than Brits even though they match us pint of pint on beer consumption. They drink less wine and spirits but smoke more and that has been linked to “social jet lag”.

The sample comprised 6,000 Brits and 70,000 Germans and the researchers are hoping to expand the research to other countries.

They think Germany night be the country that sleeps least while Mediterranean people sleep longer.

Just don’t mention the economy!