The main lifestyle factors that increase your life expectancy are reducing stress and avoiding smoking, heavy drinking and type 2 diabetes, a study reveals.
Type 2 diabetes can be prevented naturally by doing regular physical activity, healthy eating, and getting enough sleep.
A person’s quality of life, such as poor sleep and lifestyle risk factors such as obesity will all influence longevity.
Researchers found that diabetes and smoking are the leading causes of life shortening for both men and women.
Smoking lowers life expectancy by 6.6 years and diabetes by 6.5 years and heavy stress by 2.8 years for a man aged 30.
Smoking cause a 5.5 years fewer years, diabetes 5.3 years, and heavy stress 2.3 years decline in life expectancy for a 30-year-old woman.
Exercise is another lifestyle risk factor: men with a lack of physical activity had 2.4 years shorter life.
In contrast, improving quality of life and positive changes in lifestyle, such as eating lots of fruits and vegetables can boost longevity.
Eating vegetables makes people live longer by 0.9 years and fruits by 1.4 years.
For older persons, the factors that affect longevity were similar to younger people, except for the outcomes which were smaller.
People who live with moderation seem to have the best outcomes as well as living longer.
Psychological risk factors also affect life expectancy, for example, having some stress — as long as at a similar level to what is usual for others — did not reduce lifespan.
However, higher levels of stress took a few years off their life time.
The analysed data are from 38,549 Finish people aged between 25 and 74 with a follow-up period of 16 years.
Dr Tommi Härkänen, the study’s first author, said:
“Before, life expectancy has usually been assessed based on only a few sociodemographic background factor groups, such as age, sex, and education.
In this study, we wanted to assess the impact of several different factors to a person’s life expectancy, so we could compare their effects.”
The life expectancy differences between women and men appear to be related to some modifiable risk factors.
Professor Seppo Koskinen, study co-author, explains:
“What was interesting about the study was how small the difference in the life expectancy of 30-year men and women was based on the same risk factor values – only 1.6 years.
According to the statistics from Statistics Finland, the difference between the sexes has been over five years for all 30-year-olds, which comes down to women having healthier lifestyles than men.”
Education in this study appeared to have only a small impact on life expectancy if other risk factor levels were similar.
About the author
Mina Dean is a Nutritionist and Food Scientist. She holds a BSc in Human Nutrition and an MSc in Food Science.
The study was published in the British Medical Journal (Härkänen et al., 2020).