Sunday, August 14, 2011

The story of your life really is written on your face, according to new research

As you will see from the journal abstract, the media article below is a rather florid interpretation of the findings. If I put bluntly what they really found you may understand why: What they found was that men from poor families tend to be uglier. Sorry about that but that is the way the cookie crumbles. The authors speculate that the ugliness was caused by disturbances during childhood but that seems unlikely. Genetic differences are more likely the culprit

Any explanation is going to be complex however when we note that there was no such effect for women. Poor women were NOT more likely to be ugly

In some people, the weather-beaten skin and deep lines that crease their face betray obvious clues about the hard life they have led, but now scientists have discovered everyone's facial features may betray their childhood.

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh have found it is possible to learn about a person's childhood by looking at how symmetrical their face is.

Using 15 different facial features, they found that people with asymmetric faces tended to have more deprived childhoods and so harder upbringings than those with symmetrical faces.

Their findings suggest that early childhood experiences such as nutrition, illness, exposure to cigarette smoke and pollution and other aspects of a difficult upbringing leave their mark in people's facial features.

Surprisingly, their facial features were not affected by their socioeconomic status in later life, which suggests that even those who manage to undergo a rag-to-riches transformation can never escape their past as it will be written on their face.

It may explain why celebrities such as Gordon Ramsay and Tracey Emin, who had difficult and impoverished childhoods, have such distinctive asymmetric facial features despite having since amassed personal fortunes.

Professor Ian Deary, from the department of psychology at the University of Edinburgh's centre of cognitive ageing, said: "Symmetry in the face is thought to be a marker of what is called developmental stability – the body's ability to withstand environmental stressors [stress factors] and not be knocked off its developmental path.

"We wondered whether facial symmetry would faintly record either the stressors in early life, which we though might be especially important, or the total accumulated effects of stressors through the lifecourse.

"The results indicated that it is deprivation in early life that leaves some impression on the face. The association is not very strong, meaning that other things also affect facial symmetry too."

Professor Deary and his colleagues examined the facial features of 292 people aged 83 who took part in the Lothian Birth Cohort 1921, a study that has followed the participants through out their lifetime.

They were able to compare the facial symmetry of the participants to detailed information about their social status at childhood, including their parent's occupation, how crowded their home was and whether they had an indoor or outdoor lavatory.

They examined 15 different "landmarks" on the face, including the positions of the eyes, nose, mouth and ears.

They found there was a strong association between social class and the symmetry of the face in men. Those with more symmetrical faces had more privileged and easier upbringings than those with asymmetrical features.

The results in women were less strong and the researchers want to carry out further studies with other facial markers that may give a stronger association.

The researchers, however, found no correlation between participants social status in later life and their facial features.

Professor Tim Bates, who co-authored the study, added: "A small link from parental status to facial symmetry doesn't mean people are trapped by their circumstances. Far from it – as shown by the high levels of mobility in society, not just people like Gordon Ramsay, but to lesser degrees by millions of people."

The link between facial symmetry and exposure to stress in early life might explain why many studies have found that people with symmetrical faces are considered to be the most attractive.

Lop-sided facial features may unconsciously provide a signal that a person is less desirable as a mate due to the stress they experienced in early life which could leave them vulnerable to disease and premature death.

In their study, which is published in the journal of Economics and Human Biology, the scientists suggest that facial symmetry could be used alongside medical markers such as high blood pressure to identify people who might be at an increased risk of disease.

Professor Dearly, however, insisted there was still a lot of work to do before it could be used like this. "It is a research-based measure and quite tricky to calculate at present," he said.

Symmetry of the face in old age reflects childhood social status

David Hope et al.


The association of socioeconomic status (SES) with a range of lifecourse outcomes is robust, but the causes of these associations are not well understood. Research on the developmental origins of health and disease has led to the hypothesis that early developmental disturbance might permanently affect the lifecourse, accounting for some of the burden of chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease. Here we assessed developmental disturbance using bodily and facial symmetry and examined its association with socioeconomic status (SES) in childhood, and attained status at midlife. Symmetry was measured at ages 83 (facial symmetry) and 87 (bodily symmetry) in a sample of 292 individuals from the Lothian Birth Cohort 1921 (LBC1921). Structural equation models indicated that poorer SES during early development was significantly associated with lower facial symmetry (standardized path coefficient −.25, p = .03). By contrast, midlife SES was not significantly associated with symmetry. The relationship was stronger in men (−.44, p = .03) than in women (−.12, p = .37), and the effect sizes were significantly different in magnitude (p = .004). These findings suggest that SES in early life (but not later in life) is associated with developmental disturbances. Facial symmetry appears to provide an effective record of early perturbations, whereas bodily symmetry seems relatively imperturbable. As bodily and facial symmetries were sensitive to different influences, they should not be treated as interchangeable. However, markers of childhood disturbance remain many decades later, suggesting that early development may account in part for associations between SES and health through the lifecourse. Future research should clarify which elements of the environment cause these perturbations.


Real Fatsos tend to be poor

An interesting finding below. The relationship between fat and income is not linear. There is a large income range over which you are equally likely to be fat or slim. It's at the extremes that we see an effect of income. Great obesity goes with poverty and the really slim show a slight tendency to be richer.

It's possible however that the lack of a strong overall relationship arises because BMI is a poor measure of fat: You have to have a really strong effect for it to show up via BMI
Overweight and poor? On the relationship between income and the body mass index

Dean Jolliffe


Contrary to conventional wisdom, NHANES [National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of the CDC] data indicate that the poor have never had a statistically significant higher prevalence of overweight status at any time in the last 35 years. Despite this empirical evidence, the view that the poor are less healthy in terms of excess accumulation of fat persists. This paper provides evidence that conventional wisdom is reflecting important differences in the relationship between income and the body mass index. The first finding is based on distribution-sensitive measures of overweight which indicates that the severity of overweight has been higher for the poor than the nonpoor throughout the last 35 years. The second finding is from a newly introduced estimator, unconditional quantile regression (UQR), which provides a measure of the income-gradient in BMI at different points on the unconditional BMI distribution. The UQR estimator indicates that the strongest relationship between income and BMI is observed at the tails of the distribution. There is a statistically significant negative income gradient in BMI at the obesity threshold and some evidence of a positive gradient at the underweight threshold. Both of these UQR estimates imply that for those at the tails of the BMI distribution, increases in income are correlated with healthier BMI values.


No comments: