New Study Reveals Australians are Ageing 20 Years Faster than Other Countries

With over 25,000 kilometers of pristine coastline and a wealth of world-renown flora and fauna at the doorstep of most capital cities, Australia is truly the lucky country.

Yet a new study from Monash University has shed light on one area where Australians come up short against the rest of the world: our skin.

New research from the Monash dermatology unit has discovered there are 3 factors that ensure Australians are aging up to 20 years faster than their European and North American counterparts. 

Australia’s proximity to the equator, high sun elevation and clear skies under the hole in the ozone layer mean that the average Australian is exposed to higher levels of UV radiation compared with the rest of the world. 

We all recognise the importance of wearing sunscreen. But even with all the good slip, slop and slap habits we’ve adopted since childhood, it’s not enough to protect our skin from higher risk of premature ageing.

According to Monash, "These high UV levels put Australians at particular risk of photoageing, especially when combined with Australians' traditionally outdoor, sun-seeking lifestyle and a predominantly fair-skinned population.”

The study involved asking 1472 women from Australia, the UK, US and Canada to compare parts of their faces (looking at wrinkling, pigment and sagging across the forehead, nose, cheeks and mouth) to images showing varying degrees of ageing.

It is worth noting the participants in the trial did not have Botox, fillers, laser or plastic surgery. They also did not experience facial burns or trauma. The sample group were aged between 18 and 75 of either Caucasian or Asian background. They were also asked questions about their height, weight, skin characteristics, sun exposure history and use of alcohol and tobacco. Neither alcohol nor BMI was found to be a factor in premature ageing. Smoking was a different story, as is to be expected.

The research findings relating to UV exposure are worrying indeed. Australian women reported "significantly more severe signs of ageing at younger ages and a greater degree of change with age for most features than women from the other countries".

According to Monash University Associate Professor Greg Goodman, "The most significant part of this study for me was that, compared to the US, we seem to be losing weight in our face volume and face – which is a surrogate for ageing … much quicker than they are.”

"It was scary that the average Australian was at least 10 years and, in some cases, 20 years worse off volumetrically." 

Why the huge difference? Goodman believes as a primarily coastal population, we live the majority of our lives outdoors and can stay outside during our winter (unlike many other countries). The result of this is that the cumulative exposure of Australian people to the sun is much greater.

"The amount of sunshine we have when we're young is a major part of this study," he said. "By the time you're 25 years old, you've already had a fair bit of your long-term sun exposure. It sets you up for ageing much quicker than people in other countries."

Ouch. Who knew there was a downside to all the fabulous weather we experience? 

The good news is there are few handy tips you can do on a regular basis to ensure protection of the skin you’re in AND live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

Tip # 1 – Stay Out of the Sun.

This is common sense, really, in addition to daily sunscreen application. If you simply must be out in the elements – i.e. a sporting event or day at the beach - invest in a brimmed hat, tent and even bring a parasol along. 

Tip # 2 – Cover up the side of your body exposed to sun when driving.

When UVA rays come through the glass of your car, it can cause volume, fat and collagen loss. Have a pair of driving gloves handy in your car – they are practical to avoid uneccesary sun damage, as well as looking chic.

Tip # 3 – Use Zinc as Sunblock.

Get that image of Shane Warne right out of your head. Zinc is more effective at blocking the whole spectrum of damaging UV rays, from UVA to UVB. There are heavy duty zinc-based sunscreens for both face and body readily available from most chemists around Oz. 

Top 5 Heatwave Hacks

It’s hot in Australia at the moment. Really hot. Super dooper can’t-concentrate-on-anything-other-than-plunging-into-cold-water hot.

Heatstroke kills more Australians than natural disasters, with up to 80% of cases ending in fatalities. With temperatures set to soar above the 40 degree mark across the island continent over the coming week, there’s never been a more important time to be sun-sensible and look out for the wellbeing of those around you.

Read on to discover my top heatwave hacks to #beattheheat in rockstar style.


Tip # 1 – Look After People Around You

During extreme conditions, look after the people around you, especially children, the elderly and animals, who are most at risk of heat exhaustion. If you live next door to a family with small children or elderly people, tap on your neighbours’ door and make sure they’re OK - daily, if possible. It could make all the difference in the long run. 

Tip # 2 – Stay Hydrated

Avoid alcohol or caffeine during a heatwave as they are diuretics that will ensure you lose more water and salt from your body than you should. Drink plenty of water, but make sure to include an electrolyte supplement such as Hydralyte, or pick up a pre-packaged electrolyte drink like Powerade, to optimize your body’s sugar and salt levels. Make sure you eat plenty of fruit on the side – oranges and watermelon are filled to the brim with water and natural sugars, as well as being pretty darn delicious.

Tip # 3 – Avoid Prolonged Sun Exposure

It may sound like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people flock to the beach and swimming pools during the day, only to get heatstroke. Stay out of the sun – I repeat – STAY OUT OF THE SUN. Go swimming in the early mornings and evenings and always make sure to bring more water and electrolytes than you think you will need. The UV count is significantly lower at these times compared with the middle of the day, so you’ll also reduce the risk of sun damage.

Tip # 4 – Get Thee To Air Con Paradise

If you don’t have air conditioning – or if you have a busted unit from the 70s that’s on its last legs – get to your local shopping centre, library or cinema and enjoy the benefits of their state-of-the-art systems. Treat yourself to a movie and buy a spray mister from the $2 shop on the way out. Grab a couple for any children or elderly people in your neighborhood who might not be able to make it to the shops.

Tip # 5 – Eat Healthy and Don’t Have Heavy Meals

Ditch the heavy meals and switch to eating cold, lighter dishes. Larger meals will kickstart your metabolism and increase your body heat. Summer is a great time for fresh produce, so switch that heavy carb dish for a protein-rich salad.

Tip # 5 - Limit or Avoid Exercise

Exercising during extreme heat puts you at a larger risk of heat exhaustion. If you can’t bear the idea of missing your daily gym session, choose more low-impact exercises like hatha yoga or pilates that won’t require you to sweat and lose vital water and salts.