Eight healthy habits may contribute to life extension, if people adopt them by middle age, according to a study presented at the American Nutrition Association’s annual meeting “Nutrition 2023,” in Boston.

Physical activity, freedom from opioid addiction, smoking cessation, stress management, good nutrition, moderate alcohol consumption, good quality sleep and positive social relationships are the keys to increasing life expectancy.

In the study used data from medical records for over 700,000 US veterans aged 40-99 years. The data was collected in the period 2011-2019.

According to the results, men who have adopted all eight of these habits by age 40 are predicted to live an average of 24 years longer than men who do not have any of these habits. For women, these eight factors in midlife were associated with 21 extra years of life compared to women who did not have any of these habits.

Bad Habits:

  1. low physical activity,
  2. Opioid use
  3. Smoking—along with opioid use—had the greatest impact on lifespan and was associated with an approximately 30-45% higher risk of death during the study period.
  4. Anxiety
  5. Excessive alcohol consumption
  6. Bad nutrition
  7. Poor sleep quality along with poor diet are associated with an approximately 20% increased risk of death
  8. Lack of positive social relationships linked to 5% increased risk of death.

According to the researchers, the findings highlight the role of lifestyle in chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease that lead to premature disability and death.

Chart depicting the estimated impact on men of adopting different numbers of healthy lifestyle factors on additional years of life expectancy compared to men who do not engage in any of these habits. Credit: VA Million Veteran Program.

Adopting more of healthy lifestyle factors at a younger age (around age 40) is associated with the greatest gains in life expectancy, but it has been found that adopting even a few of these factors or adopting them at an older age can have significant effects.