A new study says that those who look older than their actual age does not mean that they have poor health.

"Few people are aware that when physicians describe their patients to other physicians, they often include an assessment of whether the patient looks older than his or her actual age," says Dr. Stephen Hwang, a research scientist at St. Michael's Hospital and an associate professor at the University of Toronto. "This long standing medical practice assumes that people who look older than their actual age are likely to be in poor health, but our study shows this isn't always true."

Most physicians assumed that a person who looks older by 10 years necessarily means that they were in poor health. The study being published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine covered 126 people between the ages of 30 to 70. Each of them were photographed and their photos shown to 58 physicians and asked them to identify each person's actual age.

"Physicians have simply assumed that their quick assessment of how old a person looks has diagnostic value," said Dr. Hwang. "We were really surprised to find that people have to look a decade older than their actual age before it's a reliable sign that they're in poor health. It was also very interesting to discover that many people who look their age are in poor health. Doctors need to remember that even if patients look their age, we shouldn't assume that their health is fine."