Tuesday, June 19, 2012


The other day I saw a Tweet that essentially said "Congratulations tall people. I'm glad you can reach stuff off the top shelf and are good at basketball, but I never see old tall people so you aren't going to be around for long." Their comment was not very nice or scientific, but it got me thinking about longevity. I always enjoy learning about correlations and factors that affect life expectancy. I have listed the main ones below.

Gender- The average life expectancy for women in the United States is 80 years, but it is only 75 for men, so if you were born the fairer sex, this is just one more reason to be thankful you are not a guy.

Nationality- Where one lives in the world also makes a difference. North America, Australia, and Western Europe have higher life expectancies than most of the third world countries in Africa by nearly 25 years.

Lifestyle choices-  Lifestyle has a big influence on how long one may live. If you've ever applied for life insurance you know they charge more if you smoke, use illegal drugs, take certain medications, have excessive speeding tickets, or if your occupation is considered a dangerous line of work. I think the Real Age website is interesting because taking their assessment can help estimate your chronological age and compare it to your "real age" which is largely determined by your lifestyle choices.

Genetics- Some people were just meant to live longer regardless of how they live. Occasionally people with healthy habits die at an early age while people like George Burns can chain smoke cigars and live to be 100! Genetics are never fair. Some people have a history of heart disease and cancer in their families and may be predisposed to certain diseases and a shorter life.

Income- People with higher incomes generally live longer as a result of better medical care and resources. I recently heard on the news that Presidents of the United States live longer than the average American man despite being under constant stress. I'm sure top notch medical care and checkups help, and it can't hurt that they have the Secret Service working so hard to keep them alive.

Education- this is closely correlated to income, but the more education someone receives, the longer they tend to live. There are several possible reasons for this and one is that educated people have a better standard of living and are more likely to avoid harmful substances and take better care of themselves than their non-educated peers.

The factors previously mentioned are frequently inter-related. I believe other factors like giving service, taking care of others, and having a good attitude may also improve longevity, but they are harder to quantify and measure in scientific studies than the items listed above.

As appealing as a long life may sound, longevity alone is not the answer. Living to an old age is not as enjoyable if you are chronically ill or plagued by health problems. Improving the quality of one's life is equally important, and there is much you can do to affect quality of life with your daily choices and habits. That's just one more reason why it's so important to eat well and exercise.

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