Curious Ways We Can Live Longer

Winning an Oscar, shopping more often or having a few friends at work may just help

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For those who eat well, exercise moderately, and don't gain weight or smoke, there's a good chance of adding an extra eight to fifteen years of life. The finding, culled from an analysis of 120,000 participants surveyed by Maastricht University, was noted by CBS News as underscoring the dramatic difference such simple personal upkeep can have for longevity. But we'd venture to guess most people know they should be kicking a smoking habit and heading to the gym once in awhile. What else has been linked to living just a bit longer?

Curiously, news-reported research is scatter-shot on the subject: everything from shopping, smiling, and being born in the right season has been touted by academia as a way to tack on a few precious months to years to your life. Below are a few oddities and not-so-oddities of longevity science. Correlation, as the saying goes, doesn't necessarily imply causation:

  • Being born in the fall  may help you live longer. In February, ABC News reported on a study conducted on  a million+ people in Denmark and Austria who died after age 50 and found evidence supporting a marginally longer lifespan for those born in autumn. "More fruits and vegetables are available during the summer and fall months than during the winter and spring months," the authors speculated.
  • Winning an Oscar  may help you live longer. This May, a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and relayed by ABC found a somewhat depressing statistic for mere nominees: "actors who have won Oscars live almost four years longer than actors who haven't won the coveted Academy Award." Researchers explained that they "fought" longer than their Oscar-less counterparts as they aged.
  • Having a few friends at work  may help you live longer. The MSNBC-relayed research based on a study of 820 Israeli participants found that the "link between social support from co-workers and mortality was strongest for subjects between the ages of 38 to 43." A similar 2010 study highlighted by The Guardian put it this way: "Being lonely and isolated was as bad for a person's health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or being an alcoholic."
  • Having an intense smile  may help you live longer. Here's the creative way this widely-reported Wayne State University study was conducted: it looked at the smile intensity of professional baseball players in their profile pictures and noted when they eventually passed away. The players with the relatively bigger smiles lived slightly longer.
  • Shopping more often  may help you live longer.  In 2010, researchers tracked 1,850 elderly people in Taiwan and found that those who shopped daily were the least likely to pass away. As AOL's Daily Finance conceded at the time "the act of shopping could contribute to longer life by providing exercise, a steady supply of good, fresh food, and companionship."
  • Moderate alcohol drinking  may help you live longer. This appeared to go viral a year ago, mainly for the reason that heavy drinkers, says the study published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, tended to outlast non-drinkers. "Moderate drinking, which is defined as one to three drinks per day, is associated with the lowest mortality rates in alcohol studies," wrote Time in its coverage.
  • Sleeping 6.5 to 7.5 hours a night  may help you live longer. 8 hours of sleep a night isn't best, research keeps explaining. In 2002, the author of a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry that looked at the habits of a million Americans explained ""Individuals who now average 6.5 hours of sleep a night can be reassured that this is a safe amount of sleep. From a health standpoint, there is no reason to sleep longer."
  • Eating chocolate  may help you live longer...Says research backed by Mars company, an enormous purveyor of chocolate bars. The New York Times magazine was quick to point this out when it gave extensive coverage to the topic back in April, 2010. Still, a case study noted in the article found "subjects who drank a cup of high-flavanol cocoa had an increased flow of blood to the brain; on average, participants registered a 33 percent increase in blood flow."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.