When people say we are looking old, the natural assumption - even among doctors - is that it is a sign of illness.
But it's a meaningless assessment, say researchers at the University of Toronto, unless you look 10 years older than your actual age. When that happens, 99 per cent of cases actually do have poor physical or mental health.
The research team assessed the age, looks and health of 126 people who were visiting a doctor's surgery. Each was photographed, and doctors were asked to guess their age. Those who were thought to be five years older than they were almost never had anything wrong with them.
This popular way of quickly assessing someone's health is invariably inaccurate, and doctors should drop the practice, say the researchers.
(Source: Journal of General Internal Medicine, 2010; doi: 10.1007/s11606-010-1537-0).