Facial ageing software may help you quit for good this Stoptober

Professor Sarah Grogan looks at how appearance might influence our health behaviours


Can appearance influence our health behaviours?

If you’re desperate to give up smoking this Stoptober, facial ageing software may help you quit for good.

Professor Sarah Grogan is a health psychologist and a specialist in body image at Manchester Metropolitan University. She looks at how appearance might influence our health behaviours.

By utilising specialist age-related facial morphing software, 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. A lot of people can’t get the image of themselves as an aged smoker out of their heads,” said Prof Grogan, who 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.

“We can have good habits and bad habits, each one distinct from the other and driven by a variety of factors.

“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.

“There is a very effective facial morphing programme by APRIL, which shows you how your skin would look if you stopped smoking and how it would look if you carried on smoking, right up to 72 years of age.

“The programme is able to generate very life-like ageing scenarios.”

Quick and efficient, users sit down in front of a computer to take a snap of their face. The intelligent software then runs a simulation. A window into the future.

Facial morphing. L: how PhD student Sofia Persson would look at 72 with adequate sun protection during her lifetime. R: Sofia at 72 with increased UV exposure during her lifetime

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.”

Professor Grogan will be delivering an event on ‘Innovative Approaches to Achieving Behaviour Change’ at Manchester Art Gallery on Saturday October 13. To find out more and to book a place, visit the event page

Previous Story Chief Executive of the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG) Dr Rhidian Hughes visits Birley Campus