Health & Diet

How Long You Live Is Partly Up to You

By Lola Augustine Brown

Your behaviour is more likely than your genes to determine how long you live, according to the results of a major study conducted by scientists at the University of Edinburgh. In addition to stopping smoking and watching your weight, researchers found that being open to new experiences can keep you alive longer.

The study looked at data from 600,000 people from North America, Europe, and Australia, alongside the medical records of their parents. Comparing the two sets of data allowed researchers to pinpoint both the genetic markers and lifestyle behaviours that lead to a longer (or shorter) life. The results of the meta-analysis were published in the journal Nature Communications.

Smoking a pack a day reduced lifespan by 6.8 years, but stopping could, the study said, give you back the lifespan of someone who didn’t smoke. Losing just two pounds of extra weight adds two months. And each year of education beyond high school adds a year to your time.

Researchers also found that certain genes linked to high levels of bad (LDL) cholesterol lowered lifespan by around eight months, while carrying a gene linked to the immune system increased life expectancy by six months.