Study confirms: A healthy lifestyle can increase life expectancy by up to seven years

You already know that taking care of your health is essential to a long and happy life. A recent study not only backs up this belief, but even provides a measurable benefit to taking specific steps to improve the way you live.

The University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study examined the habits and health of nearly 15,000 Americans beginning in 1998. From 2000 to 2012, researchers recorded the participants’ lifestyle and behaviors, as well as instances of disability and deaths. They focused on the three behavioral factors that are known to have the greatest impact on life expectancy in high-income countries such as the U.S.: excessive alcohol consumption, smoking and obesity. Here’s what they found:

Disability Onset

Each of these behavioral factors seemed to contribute to an earlier onset of a disability, with obesity having the highest bearing on this outcome. On average, obese men became disabled just before age 65, which is three years earlier than their non-obese counterparts. Obese women suffered a disability at the average age of 63, or six years before their non-obese peers.

Non-obese non-smokers (who had never smoked) experienced a first incident of disability 3.5 years later than the general population, and those who were moderate drinkers had the latest disability onset (around age 72 for men and 75 for women).

Living Longer

As for life expectancy, those who had never smoked, were not obese and drank moderately lived the longest. On average, men in this category lived 11 years longer than those who smoked, drank excessively and were obese, and women in this demographic lived an average of 12 years longer.

Although obesity greatly impacted disability onset, on its own, it appears to have little influence on life expectancy. However, people who are categorized as low-risk (non-obese men and women who never smoked and who were moderate drinkers) live free of disabilities for far longer.

[h/t: Science Daily]