New research suggests obituary photos exhibit a bias towards ageing

Posted on the 09 September 2011 at 09:49

If we were to blog that women show a bias towards anti-ageing I’m guessing people wouldn’t be too surprised, however what if we were to tell you that it concerns the recently deceased?

A study has emerged from the States which studied obituary photographs from a large metropolitan newspaper and has discovered that Americans seemed to be growing more biased towards youth – especially for women.

The study found that the number of obituary photos showing the deceased at a much younger age than at the time of that person’s death more than doubled between 1967 and 1997.

In 1967 about 17% of obituary photographs in Cleveland Ohio showed the deceased at least 15 years younger than their age at the time of death.    In 1997 this figure had grown to 36%.

The study required that researchers looked at 400 obituaries from the 40 year time span and analysed text and photos and deemed those who had photos showing the person at least 15 years previously were labelled “age inappropriate.”

The results concluded that age-inappropriate photos increased steadily from 17% in 1967, to 27% in 1977, to 30% in 1987 and to 36% in 1997. They also discovered that women were twice as likely to have age inappropriate photos than men and the chances of having an age inappropriate photo increased the older the person was at the time of death.

Keith Anderson, Author of the study from Ohio State University says:

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

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