Adopting Healthy Habits Can Add Up To 6 Years To Your Life — Even In Middle & Older Age
A new longevity study reveals that healthy lifestyle habits add up to six years to an individual's life—even if they're adopted in middle or older age. The study, published in Age and Ageing, followed 49,021 Japanese men and women ages 40 to 80 over two decades to analyze how modifiable health habits and behaviors affected their life expectancy.
What did the research find & why does it matter?
While other studies have been conducted on lifestyle habits, health status, and life expectancy in a number of countries with national life expectancies under 85 years, researchers wanted to see if adopting healthy habits in a country with a high life expectancy would also yield an increase in lifetime gains.
In 2020, Japan's national life expectancy was 84.7, with women living an average of 87.7 years and men an average of 81.6 years. These long life spans can be attributed to a number of factors—including a low prevalence of obesity, regular physical activity, lower intake of red meat, and diets high in fish, omega-3s, and polyphenol- and micronutrient-rich plant foods.
Interestingly, this study found that even though the average life expectancy in Japan is high, individuals could further extend their lives by implementing healthy lifestyle habits. In other words? Small, consistent actions that support our health make a big difference—especially when we build upon them.
How certain healthy habits impact longevity.
During the study, the following modifiable healthy habits were recorded:
- Consumption of fruit
- Consumption of fish
- Consumption of milk
- Body mass index (BMI)
- Habitual exercise
- Smoking status
- Alcohol consumption
- Sleep duration
Researchers found that each modifiable health habit was associated with at least a half-year gain for both men and women, and middle-aged participants that adopted seven or eight of the habits saw a lifetime gain of up to six years! Specifically, men and women that adopted seven to eight habits at 40 had a life expectancy of 86.8 and 91.3, respectively.
A few key habits were found to have the largest impact on life expectancy:
- Maintaining a healthy body composition yielded a lifetime gain of 1.3 years for men and 1.7 years for women.
- Sleeping 5.5 to 7.4 hours a night yielded a lifetime gain of 1.4 years for men and 1.6 years for women.
- Never having smoked yielded a lifetime gain of 3.8 years for men and 3.7 years for women.
- Consuming less than 46 grams of alcohol per day yielded a lifetime gain of 1.9 years for men and 4.9 years for women!
Remember, these habits weren't adopted at the ripe age of 20—participants increased their healthy habits in middle and older age (40 to 80), showing that it's never too late to optimize your longevity.
There are many things we can do to further enhance our well-being and promote longevity—no matter how old we are!
To further optimize your whole-body health through every stage of life, consider taking a high-quality, comprehensive multivitamin that includes longevity-supporting botanicals (like mbg's ultimate multivitamin+).* Like these modifiable lifestyle habits, daily multivitamin use is also associated with increased longevity!*
Morgan Chamberlain is a supplement editor at mindbodygreen. She graduated from Syracuse University with a Bachelor of Science degree in magazine journalism and a minor in nutrition. Chamberlain believes in taking small steps to improve your well-being—whether that means eating more plant-based foods, checking in with a therapist weekly, or spending quality time with your closest friends. When she isn’t typing away furiously at her keyboard, you can find her cooking in the kitchen, hanging outside, or doing a vinyasa flow.