HB and I always have an eye out for ways boost our chances of a long life, so we wind up reading a lot. We’ve come across some lifestyle choices that can make a big difference… so I thought I’d share some of the easy ones with you.
One thing we’ve discovered is good guys really do finish last. But, in this game, that’s the point. It seems like people who make more positive choices consistently wind up with more active years.
You probably won’t be surprised to learn that, on average, marriage adds years to your life expectancy. Both married men and women tend to outlive their single, divorced or widowed counterparts. This “marriage bonus” is especially big for men.
Regular churchgoers also tend to live longer. But the benefit here doesn’t appear to be from going to church itself.
Researchers theorize the healthier habits encouraged by religious faith. Studies find that folks who go to church regularly are less likely to smoke, drink heavily and engage in in other unhealthy behaviors. That may also help explain why regular churchgoers also tend to stay healthier than others.
Of course, you can keep up these healthy habits without going to church, but the numbers say you’re more likely to if you do.
Churchgoers often have strong social connections… which is another advantage when it comes to a long life.
Scientists comparing peoples social connectedness have found a big benefit. Having strong social networks pays off big time in terms of longevity.
Of course, in this case, “social network” doesn’t mean online “friends.” The connections that matter for a long life are flesh-and-blood, face-to-face friends. (In which case, HB should live forever. She has the strongest, most extensive social network I’ve ever seen.)
Making and spending time with friends cuts your risk of what doctors call “all cause mortality.” In other words, you’re risk of dying early from anything goes down. Even accidents.
And, guys, if you’re a loner, you may especially want to start making friends. Socially isolated men have a much higher risk of dying from heart trouble.
One great way to make strong social connections is to volunteer. And studies show that folks who volunteer regularly generally stay healthier longer – and outlive – folks who don’t volunteer.
And volunteer opportunities abound. Schools need volunteer parents and grandparents. Animal shelters are always looking for dog-walkers. Museums… nature preserves… community theaters… Heck, I even know a woman who volunteers at the local solid waste authority.
So, no matter what your interests, there’s a volunteer opportunity you’ll enjoy. And boost your chances for a long, healthy life while you have fun.
Finally, if you love to be loved… pet ownership is perfect for you.
The evidence here isn’t as strong as for the other categories I’ve mentioned here. But it’s nothing to sneeze at, either.
Lots of studies show a health benefit from pet ownership. For example, holding and stroking a pet can help lower blood pressure. And a number of studies have linked pet ownership with better mental health.
There don’t seem to be many studies that have looked at longevity and pet ownership. But I have come across one recent study. And the results were positive.
This study looked at people who’d had heart trouble. In this case, folks who owned pets lived longer than folks who didn’t. The study looked at a bunch of variables, and having a pet was the only one they could link to longer life.
Of course, forcing yourself to do something may not have the same effect. But if any of these lifestyle choices appeal to you, they can help tip the odds in your favor.