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Lifestyles to die for

The average life expectancy for Americans has remained stagnant for a few decades, raising many questions as to why. Although diseases and medical conditions are certainly a big part of the answer, a recent University of British Columbia study looked at 57 separate lifestyle, behavioral, socioeconomic and psychological factors to determine which ones are most closely related to mortality in the U.S.

Smoking and alcohol use are among the top five lifestyle habits most related to mortality in older Americans. (Source: Adobe Stock)

After analyzing several decades of data from the long-term U.S. Health and Retirement Study, which included more than 13,600 adults with an average age of 69, the following are the top five factors found to be most connected to risk of death, in order of their significance:

• A current smoking habit

• A history of divorce

• Past or current alcohol abuse

• Recent financial difficulties

• A history of unemployment

Other factors such as low life satisfaction, never having been married, and a history of using food stamps were also found to be related to mortality. 

“Our approach provides a look at potential long-term impacts through a lifespan lens, (which) is needed to really understand health and mortality,” said Eli Puterman, an assistant professor at UBC and the study’s lead author. 

The study was recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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