Things that can decrease life expectancy

09 September 2021

You’ve probably heard before about how much alcohol and smoking can shorten your life span, and how not getting enough exercise is bad for your health, but you might not realise there are a few other more surprising things that may take years off your life.

Here’s a list of habits you may want to avoid as they can have a detrimental influence on your life expectancy, so you can keep living longer and healthier.

Too much or too little sleep

woman sleeping

A good night’s sleep may mean the difference between a good day and a bad day. But does
sleeping too much or too little shorten your life? Research conducted by Harvard Medical School claims that those who average either less than five, or more than nine hours sleep a night could find their lifespan significantly decreasing. If you’re after the perfect night’s sleep, science recommends around seven to eight hours to gain all the benefits you need.

Sitting too much

There’s a reason why smart watches encourage you to move every hour, and it’s because sitting down for too long has been linked to a shorter life span. A recent study found that “prolonged sitting is a risk factor for all-cause mortality, independent of physical activity.” So even if you exercise numerous times a week, sitting for more than three hours a day could still take two whole years off your life.

woman sitting down

Not socialising enough

lonely man looking out of window

Another surprising thing that decreases life expectancy is a lack of social interaction. One study found that loneliness may be the biggest threat to survival and longevity, with feelings of loneliness directly impairing the immune system, making us less resistant to diseases and
infections.

Worrying too much

It’s perfectly normal to worry every now and again, but consistently being anxious about matters you can’t control – like dying for instance – could be having a detrimental effect on your life expectancy. One study found that consistently reminding yourself about death lead to shorter life expectancies amongst both young and old participants.

couple looking worried

Not flossing your teeth

man flossing his teeth

This may sound like something dentists would say to scare you, but studies have shown that not flossing between your teeth can lead to gum disease, which has been linked to a number of far more life-threatening conditions, including heart disease, diabetes and kidney failure. In fact, The Journal of Aging Research concluded that never flossing could raise your mortality risk by up to 30%, compared to those who floss every day.

Not reading books

These days it’s easy to find yourself on the sofa in front of the TV bingeing a box set or two. While we know it’s not the healthiest activity, would sitting and doing something else like reading a book make any difference? Well, it looks like it could. A study by the National Library of Medicine found that compared to non-book readers and people who read just newspapers and magazines, those who love to sit down with a good book had a 23-month survival advantage.

woman reading a book

Long commutes

woman commuting on tube

Chances are, you won’t find many people who enjoy their commute to work twice a day, but now there’s even more evidence to prove it isn’t just tiring and stressful – it could be shortening your life expectancy too. A paper written by Erika Sandow of the Department of Social and Economic Geography of Sweden, found that women who experience a long distance commute face a significantly higher mortality rate compared with woman who take short commutes. Interestingly though, it’s a different picture for men. Sandow found that the men they focused the study on did not have the same mortality risks associated with long-distance commuting.

Being pessimistic

We can all be a bit grumpy from time to time, but did you know that not being optimistic enough could shave time off your life expectancy? A recent study found that when a person has an optimistic outlook on life, they are 11%-15% more likely to live longer on average and have even greater odds of achieving “exceptional longevity”, which means living to the age of 85 or beyond.

Grumpy looking couple

Protect against the unexpected

No one likes dealing with the unexpected. Make sure your loved ones are protected, no matter what happens in life. Take a look at our guide to life insurance to learn more.