Long life

In the United States, life expectancy is 76 years for men and 81 for women.

But the following behaviors can help you live longer:

  • Healthy diet

  • Exercise

  • No smoking

  • No alcohol abuse

  • Good sleep

  • Strong social relationships

  • Optimism

  • Purpose in life

Let’s say that I offer to buy you the car of your dreams. You can pick out any car that you want, and when you get out of class this afternoon, that car will be waiting for you at home. There’s just one catch… It’s the only car you’re ever going to get in your entire life…You have only one mind and one body for the rest of your life. If you aren’t taking care of them when you’re 16 or 17, it’s like leaving that car out in hailstorms and letting rust eat away at it. If you don’t take care of your mind and body now, by the time you are 40 or 50 you’ll be like a car that can’t go anywhere.

-Warren Buffett

For example, Harvard researchers conducted a 34-year study with 123,000 participants. They found that 5 behaviors increased life expectancy to 88 for men and 93 for women:

  • Healthy diet

  • Exercise 30 minutes per day

  • No smoking

  • No alcohol abuse

  • Maintain a healthy weight

Another 30-year Harvard study found that optimistic people lived 11–15% longer and were 50–70% more likely to reach age 85.

Start living longer today. Healthy diet, exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and good sleep are part of the “Daily habits” section. The chapters on “Friendship”, “Dating”, “Marriage”, and “Social skills” will improve your relationships. Finally, find your purpose in life by following the chapter on “Happiness”.

Researchers have estimated that 90% of us could live to age 90 with some simple lifestyle choices. What’s more, we could live free of common diseases that make our final years miserable.

-Tom Rath

My number one priority in life, above my happiness, above my family, above my work, is my own health. It starts with my physical health. Second, it’s my mental health. Third, it’s my spiritual health. Then, it’s my family’s health. Then, it’s my family’s wellbeing. After that, I can go out and do whatever I need to do with the rest of the world.

-Naval Ravikant


Xu J et al. (2020). Mortality in the United States, 2018. National Center Health Statistics. NCHS Data Brief No. 355.

  • In 2018, life expectancy at birth was 76.2 for men and 81.2 for women in the United States

Li Y et al. (2020). Healthy lifestyle and life expectancy free of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes: prospective cohort study. BMJ. 368: l6669.

  • A 34-year study of 111,562 participants found that women at age 50 who lived a healthy lifestyle had an extra 10.7 years of life expectancy free of diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer (84 years vs. 74)

  • For men, it was an extra 7.6 years (81 years vs. 74)

  • Life expectancy was reduced the most by heavy smoking and obesity

  • Healthy lifestyle was defined as: never smoking; BMI 18.5–24.9; ≥30 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous exercise; 1 alcoholic drink or less per day; healthy diet score in the upper 40%

Schwingshack L et al. (2017). Food groups and risk of all-cause mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. Am J Clin Nutr. 105(6): 1462–1473.

  • A meta-analysis of 103 studies found that risk of all-cause mortality was decreased by eating the following food groups: nuts (24%), whole grains (8%), fish (7%), fruits (6%), and vegetables (4%)

Daskalopoulou C et al. (2017). Physical activity and healthy ageing: A systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal cohort studies. Ageing Res Rev. 38: 6–17.

  • A meta-analysis of 23 studies with 174,114 participants found that exercise was associated with healthy ageing (effect size = 0.27–0.39)

GBD 2016 Alcohol Collaborators. (2018). Alcohol use and burden for 195 countries and territories, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016. Lancet. 392(10152): 1015–1035.

  • A systematic review of 592 studies found that alcohol use was the 7th leading risk factor for deaths around the world

  • Risk of harm was minimized at zero drinks per week

Cappuccio FP et al. (2010). Sleep duration and all-cause mortality: A systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. Sleep. 33(5): 585–592.

  • A meta-analysis of 16 studies with 1,382,999 participants found that risk of death was increased by short sleep (12%) and long sleep (30%)

  • Short sleep was defined as ≤4, 5, 6, or 7 hours per night

  • Long sleep was ≥8, 9, 10, or 12 hours

Holt-Lunstad J, Smith TB, Layton JB. (2010). Social relationships and mortality risk: a meta-analytic review. PLoS Med. 7(7): e1000316.

  • A meta-analysis of 148 studies with 308,849 participants found that stronger social relationships increased likelihood of survival by 50%

Okun MA, Yeung EW, Brown S. (2013). Volunteering by older adults and risk of mortality: a meta-analysis. Psychol Aging. 28(2): 564–577.

  • A meta-analysis of 14 studies found that volunteering by older adults reduced mortality risk by 24%

Lee LO et al. (2019). Optimism is associated with exceptional longevity in 2 epidemiologic cohorts of men and women. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 116(37): 18357–18362.

  • A 10-year study of 69,744 women and a 30-year study of 1,429 men found that those in the highest quartile or quintile of optimism had a 10.9–14.9% longer lifespan and a 50–70% higher likelihood of reaching age 85

  • For perspective, never having been diagnosed with diabetes was associated with a 17.0% longer lifespan

Cohen R, Bavishi C, Rozanski A. (2016). Purpose in life and its relationship to all-cause mortality and cardiovascular events: A meta-analysis. Psychosom Med. 78(2): 122–133.

  • A meta-analysis of 10 prospective studies with 136,265 participants found that purpose in life reduced risk of mortality by 17%

Li Y et al. (2018). Impact of healthy lifestyle factors on life expectancies in the US population. Circulation. 138(4): 345–355.

  • A 34-year study of 123,219 participants found that women and men with low-risk lifestyle factors had an expected life expectancy of 93.1 and 87.6 years, respectively

  • Low-risk lifestyle factors were: never smoking; BMI 18.5–24.9; ≥30 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous exercise; 1 alcoholic drink or less per day; healthy diet score in the upper 40%

Ruby JG et al. (2018). Estimates of the heritability of human longevity are substantially inflated due to assortative mating. Genetics. 210(3): 1109–1124.

  • A study of family trees of >400 million people found that heritability of longevity was less than 10%

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