As reported in the Manchester Evening News:
Impactful work is being done by health psychologist Sarah Grogan, a specialist in body image at Manchester Metropolitan University, who looks at how appearance might influence our health behaviours.
Effects of aging as a smoker shown on right. (Image: APRIL Face Aging software by AprilAge).
Her research looks at the impact of our habits on how our faces might age – using the shock factor of seeing ourselves in older age to inspire change today.
"It’s simple, effective and has a massive impact on people’s motivation to change," she said. "A lot of people can’t get the image of themselves as an aged smoker out of their heads.
Prof Grogan first conducted studies in 2008 at Staffordshire University when participants were shown images of their ageing faces if they continued to smoke or if they quit.
(Image: APRIL® Face Aging Software by AprilAge)
“In some instances, we can break bad habits after being confronted with evidence of their adverse impacts. However, in many cases, we may continue regardless, often with negative consequences for our health.”
She adds: “We thought if people could see the impact of what they’re doing on their appearance in the future, but see it today, it might provide an incentive to chart a new course.
“We initially spoke to young people aged 17-24 in a focus group study, and asked them what would motivate them to quit smoking – and the key thing was damage to their appearance."
Facial morphing technology developed by APRIL shows people how their skin would look if they stopped smoking and how it would look if they continue, right up to the age of 72.
Users sit in front of a computer to take a picture of their face and the intelligent software then runs a simulation.
Images show marked differences in skin quality, wrinkles and colouration.
One young women who took part in the study said: “It has definitely like triggered me to not smoke a lot more compared to if I hadn’t seen it.”
One young man who took part added: “It definitely makes me want to quit smoking because that’s horrific, I do not want to look like that and I know that sounds vain but it’s dreadful there’s no need to make myself age any faster than I have to.”
The Professor of Psychology Health and Wellbeing added: “These studies have suggested that facial morphing interventions may be useful to aid traditional programs designed to help people to quit smoking.”