Wednesday, August 01, 2018 by Russel Davis
A recent study published in Nature Communications has revealed that staying in shape and continuously learning new things may well extend a person’s lifespan. A team of researchers at the University of Edinburgh pooled data from more than 600,000 people, such as records of their parents’ lifespan, as part of the study. The research team was able to identify certain factors that greatly affect lifespan.
The results show that both cigarette smoking and disease markers associated with diabetes play a central role in reducing a person’s lifespan. According to the findings, people who are heavy smokers are at an increased risk of reducing their lifespan by seven years. Likewise, excess weight and other diabetes markers are negatively implicated in lifespan shortening. Two new genes that affect the heart and the immune system are also found to reduce lifespan by about eight months and half a year, respectively.
However, adopting a healthier lifestyle such as quitting smoking and losing weight may help boost a person’s life expectancy. The scientists also observed that people who study longer and are more open to trying new things have an increased likelihood of better life expectancy.
“Our study has estimated the causal effect of lifestyle choices. We found that, on average, smoking a pack a day reduces lifespan by seven years, whilst losing one kilogram of weight will increase your lifespan by two months,” researcher Dr. Peter Joshi has told Science Daily online.
The recent findings coincide with data from a previous study demonstrating that reading may in fact improve a person’s survival. As part of the study, a team of scientists surveyed 3,635 people between the ages of 50 years and older. The research team then categorized the participants in three groups. One group read for 3.5 hours or more a week, while the other groups either read up to 3.5 hours a week or did not read at all.
The results showed that participants who read for more than 3.5 hours a week are 23 percent less likely to die during a 12-year period. Likewise, those who read for up to 3.5 hours a week have had a 17 percent reduction in mortality risk. In addition, 33 percent of non-readers died during a follow-up period compared with only 27 percent of book readers. (Related: Reading books reduces the risk of an early death, say researchers.)
The research team also observed that book readers lived 108 months after baseline, which is a stark contrast to non-book readers who lived for only 85 months after baseline. According to the researchers, reading books may provide a 23-month survival advantage. The scientists have also found that reading books instead of periodicals such as magazines and newspapers resulted in better survival among participants.
“Cognitive engagement may explain why vocabulary, reasoning, concentration, and critical thinking skills are improved by exposure to books. [Reading books] can promote empathy, social perception, and emotional intelligence, which are cognitive processes that can lead to greater survival…The benefits of reading books include a longer life in which to read them…The robustness of our findings suggests that reading books may not only introduce some interesting ideas and characters, it may also give more years of reading,” the researchers concluded.
“[Future studies may examine] whether there are additional health benefits from book reading, other than extended survival; whether there are similar effects [when it came to] reading e-books and audiobooks, which may be more likely to be read in a non-sedentary manner; and whether nonfiction vs. fiction, as well as various genres, have different effects,” the researchers add.