Twins Show That Aging Is Not All in Your Genes

simon whitaker twins

Have you ever looked in the mirror and noticed how much you’re starting to look like your mother or father? It happens to all of us: much of aging is determined by the genes we inherited from our parents.

But surely not all wrinkles, sagging, and brown spots are due to “bad genes.” So, how much of aging is due to choices we’ve made over a lifetime and how much is out of our control?

The way to answer these questions is to study adult twins. Twins have identical DNA but experience different lives. Different habits and life experiences over years should affect they way they look. A study of what causes aging in identical twins published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery examined how a lifetime of good or bad habits made twins look younger or older compared to their once identical counterparts.

The 186 pairs of twins in the study looked remarkably alike, but there were differences. As you might expect, the longer people smoked, the older they appeared compared to their non-smoking twin. Also, the more sun exposure people had, the older they appeared compared to their sun-avoiding, sunscreen-applying twins.

Being divorced or taking antidepressants also made people appear older, suggesting that a stressful life can take a toll on your appearance.

Some things in life, like the genes you inherited, you cannot help, but choices you make can make a difference. Make 2010 the year you wrestle control over bad habits like smoking and excess sun and resolve to fight the ubiquitous stress of life by eating well, sleeping well, and exercising —  you’ll save yourself a lot of money in Botox later.

Photo: Simon Whitaker,

5 thoughts on “Twins Show That Aging Is Not All in Your Genes”

  1. The effort to stay young-looking has become widespread. The best way to fend off the aging process is to take good care of your skin while you are still young! This includes protecting your skin for stress and sun damage. This website has good ideas for ways to keep your skin looking young and fresh.

  2. I wonder what the difference would be with the aging process if one twin experienced no stress vs the other living a more stressful life. Interesting to see the difference/similiarities between twins.

  3. Yeah, but Pavlov already tried doing scientific experiments on people over long periods of time. Didn’t work out too well for him.

    The problem is finding a pair of twins, having one in a controlled envirion free of all stress (which to me is virtually impossible save for keeping them in a catatonic state 24/7), and bombarding the other one with stress. While the twins might be willing to be part of the experiment, neither one would want to be the stress twin.

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