The factors that determine how long a person may live are as varied as they are complex. Some are genetic, but environmental influences, deliberate lifestyle choices, and even psychological elements come into play. Even something as seemingly simple as owning a pet may extend a person’s life by a few years.
Studies throughout the years indicate that females have longer life expectancies than males. Experts have historically attributed this to males having more dangerous professions and higher rates of suicide and similar conditions. However, male and female lifestyles have begun to converge and the lifespans still differ. Some researchers contribute this to biological genetic traits, such as women having higher estrogen levels.
A 2015 Harvard study found associations between moderate coffee drinking and a lower chance of early death. Researchers observed that people who drank three to five cups of coffee a day had lower likelihoods of death from cardiovascular and neurological diseases and type 2 diabetes. Some experts suggest this is due to certain compounds in coffee that help reduce inflammation and insulin resistance.
Duke University Medical Center performed a study in 2013 that analyzed the effects of marriage on around 5,000 people. People who never married were nearly twice as likely to die prematurely in comparison to people in stable marriages throughout their adult lives. Even accounting for other factors — such as dangerous behavior — marital status continues to have a beneficial effect on longevity. This is potentially due to the emotional and social support that a partner provides.
Chronic stress is one of the biggest factors affecting lifespan. People who experience chronic stress have lower levels of klotho, a protein that affects insulin sensitivity, oxidative stress, inflammation, and aging. Low levels of klotho may increase the risk of developing many diseases. Studies show that chronic stress can dramatically increase a person's chance of having a heart attack or stroke.
Maintaining a healthy diet is one of the best ways to improve overall health and longevity. Whole grains are an excellent source of nutrients like polyphenols, which may lower the risk of death from cancer, diabetes, and respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Additionally, a 2013 study found that adults with high concentrations of polyphenols in their urine have a 30% lower mortality rate than other individuals.
Fish and other seafood are more simple additions to a diet that can lengthen a person’s life. A seafood-rich diet supplies plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, which have a range of beneficial effects. Having high levels of omega-3 may reduce the risk of dying from cardiac conditions by up to 35% and the general chance of death by 27%.
A review of 148 studies and almost 310,000 participants found that people with stronger social relationships have a 50% higher chance of survival than people who live in isolation. These findings were consistent across factors like age, sex, cause of death, and initial health status. Social isolation is comparable to other mortality factors, such as smoking and alcoholism.
Many studies have found beneficial effects from having a pet, including increased happiness and less loneliness. Particularly active pets, such as dogs, may have an even greater influence on a person’s health. Dog ownership improves cardiovascular health because it promotes more physical activity. These factors, in combination with the psychological benefits of having a furry companion, may reduce the risk of death over the long term.
People who have never smoked tend to live around 10 years longer than those who smoke regularly. While this effect decreases the more a person smokes, it is almost always possible to live longer by quitting. For example, quitting before age 40 reduces the likelihood of dying from a smoke-related disease by nearly 90%.
Maintaining a healthy weight can help a person achieve a long life. Experts consider a healthy weight equivalent to a BMI score of between 18.5 and 24.9. A high BMI can be a predictor for conditions like cardiac issues or diabetes. Please remember that a simple calculation using your height and weight is not a reliable way to determine your true BMI. Doctors and nutritionists can advise an individual on how to attain a healthy weight for their specific body composition.
Weightlifting can have beneficial effects on the body and the mind. Primarily, lifting weights helps build lean muscle, which has direct links to a longer life. In a study of almost 4,000 adults, people with the greatest lean muscle mass were the least likely to die prematurely. Additionally, many people gain psychological benefits from weightlifting, which also positively affects longevity.
While regularly drinking large amounts of alcohol can increase the risk of cancer and liver disease, among other conditions, drinking smaller amounts may have beneficial effects. A study from the Netherlands found that slightly less than a single serving of wine, beer, or a similar drink each day could increase a person's chances of living to age 90.
People who give birth to a child later in life will likely live longer than those who had children sooner. More specifically, having a child after age 33 doubles the chances for living to an older age in comparison to people who had their last child by age 29. Giving birth at 40 years old increases the odds to almost four times.
Research shows that getting enough sleep can contribute to a long life expectancy. However, the same studies indicate that sleeping too much can have a negative effect. People who sleep for five hours a night tend to live longer than those who sleep for eight or more hours. For most people, seven hours is the healthiest amount of sleep with the highest survival rates.
Researchers are still attempting to uncover just how much a person's genetics affect their life expectancy. They do know that a family history of longevity indicates a longer lifespan. Genetics appear to play the largest role in an adult's later years, while environmental factors matter the most earlier in life.
Research shows that people who hold few positive feelings about their lives have a 29% mortality rate in an eight-year span, while those who feel better about their lives have a 9% rate. Subjective well-being plays a role in these findings, as do diagnosable conditions like depression and anxiety. Speaking with a mental health professional or receiving treatment for mood and mental health disorders can have noticeable benefits on a person's lifespan.
For many reasons, actively participating in religious or spiritual services can extend a person's life. Primarily, religious services are often social encounters, which, as mentioned, impact longevity. Additionally, religious or spiritual individuals often feel like their lives have purpose and meaning, and this improves subjective well-being and happiness. Many belief systems promote mindfulness and prayer, which also have positive effects on mental health.
Being sexually active has many potential health benefits that can contribute to a longer life. Mortality risk is up to 50% lower in people with high orgasm frequencies. Higher satisfaction from sexual activity may improve cardiovascular health in females, while the act itself appears to have similar effects on males. Some research also indicates a lower risk of prostate cancer in males who ejaculate more often.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology has found that eye health has direct correlations with longevity. People who receive cataract surgery to correct visual impairment have a 40% drop in the risk of mortality. Some factors that contribute to this are better subjective well-being, confidence in independent living, and fewer injuries from falls.
One of the largest predictors for a person's life expectancy is their level of wealth. A 2016 study found that people within the top 1% income bracket lived almost 15 years longer than those in the bottom 1%. While the possession of money does not directly improve health, wealthier individuals generally have healthier habits. The reasons behind this are complex but primarily stem from these people having the resources — finances, free time, and less stress about basic living requirements — to live healthier.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.