3.1 Socialize and stay connected

Feeling lonely can shorten your life and increase the risk of disability. That’s according to two studies published in 2012. The biggest impact seemed to be on people who were middle aged rather than old.

Practical tip – Volunteering, clubs, teams, societies, faith groups, families and work can all help you socialise, stay connected and avoid feeling lonely.

3.2  Don’t retire too early

If you retire well before the normal age for retirement in your country your long term health may suffer. In fact life expectancy seems to increase for most people the longer they continue to work.

Practical tip – Are you facing redundancy and early retirement and can’t find alternative paid work? If so, consider voluntary work. This appears to have health benefits - and may even prove a stepping stone back to paid work.

3.3 Get married and stay married?

On average you’re more likely to live longer if you’re married. However, if you’re in a stressful relationship this increases the risk of heart attack.

Practical tip – The UK charity RELATE provides counselling, support and information to help people with their relationships. 

Body, Mind and Relationships – A Case Study 

Loma Linda is a small city in part of California that suffers from air pollution. However people there live 4 – 7 years longer than other Californians. Half the population are Seventh Day Adventists i.e. Protestant Christians for whom diet and health are unusually important. For example students at Loma Linda University agree to exclude alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs from their lives – and the city has fewer fast food outlets than usual. 

Practical tips – A combination of exercise, vegetarian food, not smoking, social support, a strong belief in marriage and church attendance are believed to help explain why people in Loma Linda live longer. Most of these are options we can pursue too. 

NB Research suggests that, if we want to live to be 100, we probably need to inherit longevity genes from our parents. However, a healthy lifestyle can give us a good chance of living well into our 80’s.

Updated 04/07/14, Next review date May 17