Faces hold clue to mental health

The more symmetrical a man’s face the more likely he is to remain mentally alert in later life, a study suggests.

Average face of 50 men from the sample with the 15 landmarks used for symmetry measurements.

Psychologists at the University have found that men with higher levels of facial symmetry are less likely to experience a slow down of brain power between the ages of 79 and 83 years.

Using results from the Scottish Mental Survey undertaken in 1932, researchers measured the facial symmetry of a sample of men and women.

They related these results to the subjects’ performance in reasoning and reaction-time tests.

Differences between the sexes

Findings showed that facial symmetry in men is linked to how the body and mind will age, according to the study published in Evolution and Human Behaviour journal.

Comparable results were not found in women.

Researchers speculate this could be because of to sex-specific effects of DNA on ageing.

Women also live about four years longer than men on average and cognitive functions decline especially rapidly in the last years before death.

Symmetry link to ageing mind

The researchers say that the findings show a link between physical condition and mental decline.

The findings indicate that facial symmetry may be a reflection of developmental stability in a man’s body.

It shows the person may have been subject to fewer genetic and environmental disturbances such as diseases, toxins, malnutrition or genetic mutations during his development.

Previous research has suggested that cognitive decline is an aspect of body-wide ageing. This link could show that facial symmetry can be used as a marker which could predict this decline.

Dr Lars Penke,School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences