Can How Old You Look Tell You How Long You’ll Live?


How old do you look? The question might seem ageist – after all, what does it even mean? Isn’t age just a number and if you “look like you’re 50” when you’re 70, doesn’t that just mean that your version of 70 has fewer wrinkles?

Maybe not. It turns out that how old you look in comparison to other people your age has more far reaching implications. For example, it might tell you something about how long you’ll live – assuming you don’t get hit by a bus.

Do You Look Your Age?


The idea that how much a face has aged is a clue to that person’s longevity is not new to Jay Olshansky, professor of public health at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a researcher affiliated with the Center on Aging at the University of Chicago. According to a recent article in the Washington Post, Olshansky’s research has shown him that “people who live longer generally look younger than other people of their age.” He mentioned the fact to an insurance underwriter at a dinner party, and not surprisingly the underwriter was interested. Could facial recognition software be used to gauge a consumer’s likely life expectancy?

One thing led to another: In the near future, your sagging jowl might mean a higher life insurance premium. In the short term, you can upload your photo to a website and get a readout of your “age” in comparison to others and the age at to which you can expect to live.

Face Your Age

According to the Washington Post, Face My Age is not only a website but also a database that is designed to grow more accurate as people participate. Olshansky and his team of researchers are hoping for at least 10,000 people to upload their photos.

The site makes it easy: After providing basic info – age, gender, ethnicity – you browse for a photo stored on your computer. The site offers photo guidelines for the best results: well-lit, full face, no makeup, no smile.  You then use the site’s simple tools to mark the center of your eyes, tip of your nose and bottom of your chin. Face My Age uses this info, along with answers to a handful of biographical and lifestyle questions, to tell your “face age”; researchers have found that markers such as sagging jowl are meaningful for gauging an individual’s longevity when compared to the norm for a given age.

Do you want to know how many days you have left in this world? Maybe not. Are you curious about your “face age”? Olshansky and the insurance industry are hoping that you are.

Did you upload your photo to Face My Age? Share your experience with the site below.


21 responses to “Can How Old You Look Tell You How Long You’ll Live?

  1. I’m 45 and the app told me I look 26. Nice ego boost. I am often told that I look early to mid-30’s and when I tell people I’m 45, they are shocked.

    I find the older I get, the younger I look. When I was 20, I looked 20. When I was 25, I looked 25. When I was 30, I looked 25. When I was 35, I looked 28…etc…

  2. bad, uneven lighting put me at 81, but when I took the time to get in better light and take a clearer picture the age estimate was very good. Next time I will try even better image quality and try to get my age under 40! :)

  3. I used a year old photo, taken soon after my 70th birthday….ridiculous ‘face age’ given,
    saying 46! Flattering but unrealistic; most people guess my age as early 50s. Said I would live to 83, not encouraging Parents lived to 88 and 95.

  4. I looked 38 or 42 depending on whether I said I was a former smoker and got regular sun, or, not. Actually I’m 37 and most people put me at 30. Perhaps those people are going off more than my face but I doubt any of them would put me at 42. It says I’ll live til 84. I’m shooting for 120 in good health

  5. I put everything in and it just keeps saying something went wrong. Nothing wrong on my end. But if that’s all the info they need, I agree with the person who says it’s about as accurate as “which Harry Potter character are you”.

  6. OK…this is NOT a good idea for seniors to participate in. Printing the days you have “to live” (yep it gives you that number) can be extremely emotional. I am only in my 60’s and already seeing a number of the days I supposedly have left according to them is not something I wanted to ever contemplate thanks.

    1. Marilyn, thanks for your comment. The 2006 Scientific American article you’ve linked to pointed to “a growing number of dissenters” to the obesity claim made in 2005 by Olshansky and others in a special report published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The question is still being debated, and the CDC and World Health Organization still see childhood obesity as a major public health issue. The medical community may have its dissenters – and Face My Age may or may not be accurate – but Olshansky remains a respected researcher in public health and aging.

    2. Marilyn, thanks for your comment. The 2006 Scientific American article you’ve linked to points to “a growing number of dissenters” who questioned Olshansky and others’ 2005 special report on obesity and longevity, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The question is still being debated, and the Center for Disease Control and World Health Organization still see childhood obesity as a public health issue. The claims of the 2005 special report may or may not be borne out years from now, and the algorithm in Face My Age may or may not prove to be accurate, but Olshansky remains a respected researcher in the fields of public health and aging.

    1. I finally managed to upload one. The results were that I look my age and will die at 86. My mother lived to be 97. I expect to do the same. Nevertheless, I felt depressed by the results and hoped to find the site debunked!

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