Psychologists at the University of Edinburgh 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, the research team measured the facial symmetry of a sample of men and women and related this to the subjects’ performance in reasoning and reaction-time tests.
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, which the researchers speculate could be because of to sex-specific effects of DNA on ageing, or because women live about four years longer than men on average and cognitive functions decline especially rapidly in the last years before death.
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 as 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.
Dr Lars Penke, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, who led the research, said: “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.”
This is the first study to explore the link between facial symmetry and cognitive functioning. Scientists have already found a connection with symmetrical faces and health, physical attractiveness and beauty.