New Insight into Longevity Factors

A big new study, published in The Lancet (the world’s oldest medical journal), examined 1.7 million people from many other studies and found some interesting new predictors of life expectancy. Many of them are already recognized as key risk factors for death and disease.  However, the researchers also found some new and interesting threats to longevity.

What The Research Shows
The researchers performed a huge meta-analysis in which they combined the data from the 48 different studies.  Unsurprisingly, they found that men who smoked lost an average 5.6 years off their life expectancy.  Similarly, having diabetes reduced lifespan by 4.1 years, and hypertension reduced it by 1.9 years.

Interestingly, they also found that physical inactivity was linked to a shorter life.  In fact, in the pooled data, inactivity reduced life expectancy more than alcohol use, hypertension, and having a high body mass (weight) combined! While we know that physical activity and exercise increase healthspan, this is new data showing that inactivity reduces it.

Another first was that the researchers also linked low socioeconomic stats (SES) to a shorter lifespan. Those with a low SES were 46% more likely to die younger and before those with a high SES.  While researchers know that education and income affect overall health, linking all these factors together suggests that SES and physical inactivity should receive more attention as major risk factors for a shorter life.

What Does This Mean For You?
You might not be able to change your SES right now, but you can stop smoking (among other things) and be active. In addition to positive effects on lifespan, we know exercise and physical activity in general reduce stress, protect your brain long term, and preserve your DNA.  Eating a healthy diet can also improve some of these things—so move your body, eat well, and live long and prosper.

(Feature photo courtesy of

Isaac Everitt

Isaac Everitt is an intern with the Healthy Aging Project, and a student in the Integrative Physiology Department at the University of Colorado Boulder.