If you want to add seven years to your life the formula is simple.
Don’t smoke, don’t become obese and drink moderately and you can expect to live seven years longer than the general population AND spend most of theose years in good health.
A study of more than 14,000 people found that the people who never smoked and were not obese lived 4-5 years longer than the general population.
When you add moderate alcohol consumption into the mix you add on another two to three years.
The study was conducted by Mikko Myrskylä, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Germany; and Neil Mehta, Professor of Health Management and Policy at the University of Michigan, USA.
“Improvements in medical technology are often thought to be the gatekeeper to healthier, longer life. We showed that a healthy lifestyle, which costs nothing, is enough to enable individuals to enjoy a very long and healthy life,” said Mikko Myrskylä.
He added: “A moderately healthy lifestyle is enough to get the benefits. Avoiding becoming obese, not smoking, and consuming alcohol moderately is not an unrealistic goal.”
Previous studies have looked at single behaviours in isolation. This is the first to analyse the effects of several lifestyle choices in combination.
Smoking was linked to an early death but not an increase in years with disability.
Obesity, however, was linked to a long period of disability and excessive alcohol consumption was linked to both a shorter lifespan and a reduction in the number of healthy years.
Men who were not overweight, had never smoked, and drank moderately were found to live an average of 11 years longer than men who were overweight, had smoked, and drank excessively.
For women, the gap between these two groups was found to be even greater, at 12 years.
“Our results show how important it is to focus on prevention. Those who avoid risky health behaviours are achieving very long and healthy lives.
“Effective policy interventions targeting health behaviors could help larger fractions of the population to achieve the health benefits observed in this study,” Mikko Myrskylä emphasized.
A a body mass index of less than 30 wasclassified as not obese.
Smoking less than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime was considered never smoking.
Men who had fewer than 14 drinks per week and women who had fewer than seven drinks per week were considered moderate drinkers.
The study was published in Health Affairs.