May 14, 2009

More appearing younger in obituary photos

There is pressure for women to appear youthful in entertainment and the media, but there is also a youth bias for obituary photos, U.S. researchers said.

The study, published in the Omega-Journal of Death and Dying, found that the number of obituary photographs showing the deceased at a much younger age than when he or she died more than doubled between 1967 and 1997. Women were more than twice as likely as men to have an obituary photo from when they were much younger.

Study co-author Keith Anderson of Ohio State University in Columbus said that in 1967, about 17 percent of the obituary photographs surveyed in the The Plain Dealer, a daily newspaper in Cleveland, were age-inappropriate -- the photos of the deceased were at least 15 years younger than when they died. However, by 1997, the number had increased to 36 percent.

Obituaries and their photographs are one reflection of our society at a particular moment in time, Anderson said in a statement. In this case, we can get hints about our views on aging and appearance from the photographs chosen for obituaries. Our findings suggest that we were less accepting of aging in the 1990s than we were back in the 60s.