Boosting Life Expectancy: Eight Habits That Make a Difference


Eight factors influence our life expectancy – and can increase or decrease it by more than 20 years, according to a study. A healthy lifestyle also reduces the risk of cancer.

It’s no secret that those who lead a healthy lifestyle tend to live longer. It may come as a surprise, however, how great the influence of lifestyle is: a new study from the USA shows that life expectancy can be increased by more than twenty years through healthy habits.The team led by researcher Xuan-Mai Nguyen from the University of Illinois analyzed data from over 700,000 US veterans aged 40 to 99 collected between 2011 and 2019. The researchers presented the results of the long-term study at the nutrition conference in Boston.The large amount of data comes from the Million Veterans Program, a US national research program examining how genes, lifestyle and military experiences affect the health and well-being of ex-servicemen.

Eight Factors

On average, 40-year-old men can live 23.7 years longer with a healthy lifestyle than with a very harmful one, and women 22.6 years. But what constitutes a “healthy lifestyle”? The research team specifically named eight factors that can prolong life.For example, you should be physically active, be good at dealing with stress, eat well, sleep well and regularly, and maintain positive social relationships. You should also avoid smoking, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and not being dependent on opioid painkillers.


New habits are also worthwhile in old age

The research team found that changing to a healthier lifestyle is still worthwhile as you get older. According to Nguyen, “the sooner the better, but even if you make a small change at 40, 50 or 60, it’s still beneficial.”Because in order to increase life expectancy, you don’t have to change all the factors at once – but of course an all-round healthy lifestyle brings the greatest gain. “We were really surprised at how much you could gain by introducing one, two, three or all eight lifestyle factors,” said study leader.

Smoking greatly increases the risk of death

Just as the eight habits can increase life expectancy, they can also significantly shorten it. Above all, low physical activity, smoking and addiction to opiates are major risk factors that reduce life expectancy.Each of these factors increased the risk of death by 30 to 45 percent over the eight-year study. Constant stress, high alcohol consumption, unhealthy diet and poor sleep increased the risk by 20 percent.

Cancer risk also influenced by lifestyle

Lifestyle also influences the likelihood of developing cancer. The Boston Nutrition Congress therefore also focused on current results from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in Heidelberg. Many Germans therefore do not know about the most important cancer risk factors.According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the top risk factors include: alcohol, low physical activity, unhealthy diet, obesity, red and processed meat, sugary drinks, tobacco exposure and use, and ultraviolet radiation.

Better education on cancer prevention

The more people in a country who know about cancer risk factors, the higher the proportion of people who make efforts to reduce their personal cancer risk. This is what Pricivel Carrera and Silvia Calderazzo from the DKFZ found out based on a survey on the subject of cancer. “In Germany, around 40 percent of all cancer cases are preventable,” says Carrera – for example through a healthy lifestyle.