According to reports by the CDC National Center for Health Statistics, life expectancy in the United States dropped to 78.7 years, a trend that had been witnessed the previous year. The average life expectancy as per the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which represents Canada, Mexico, Germany, Japan, UK, and France stood at 80.3 years, 1.5 years higher than that of the US.
What were some of the factors that contributed to a lower life expectancy?
Documented causes of a shorter life span
Despair, substance abuse, and suicide
According to a study on the ‘Failing health of the United States’ published in the BMJ journal, despair is the main explanation behind the falling life expectancy in the United States. Despair is the cause of many other deaths as it has been linked to overindulgence in alcohol, drug abuse, and even suicide.
Today, there are more deaths resulting from substance abuse as Steven Woolf, Associate Professor of emergency medicine of Virginia Commonwealth University and Co-author of the research puts it. These have further resulted in the decline of emotional health among victims, which has significantly affected the overall life expectancy of the American citizens. Quite alarmingly and the highest that has ever been witnessed, at least 115 deaths in the U.S. are reported each day as a result of substance abuse and a further 6 from alcohol abuse.
Other causes were health conditions such as HIV/AIDS and diabetes. All these have left both people and institutions with the greater task of trying to discover how to live longer and feel better. More studies are still being conducted but the answer somehow lies in the basics.
Shooting and car crashes
In another study, shootings, car crashes, along with an overdose of drugs were found to be another cause of the reduction in life expectancy by up to 2 years in the US. sadly, these also have a strong connection with despair. According to statistics, up to 100,000 deaths result annually from these three reducing the life expectancy for men to 78.6 years and that of women to 83.4 years according to a statement by Andrew Fenelon, a senior service fellow at the National Center for Health Statistics at the CDC.
Fear of a life cut short or death
Some people fear death and old age. Quite surprisingly, this is yet another reason why they die before their time. Fear of a shorter life span, also known as Thanatophobia, potentially causes just that, a shorter lifespan. A study found that while older people feared the process of dying, their younger counterparts feared death itself.
Previously in the year 2012, it was discovered that women were more affected by the fear of losing a loved one as well as its aftermath. This fear stems from several other situations, phobias included, such as:
- Mental health conditions like Dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, and other orders stemming from depression and anxiety.
- Other specific phobias like snakes, heights, and planes. Mostly, objects that are known to cause injury or death.
- Illnesses particularly terminal illnesses like cancer.
- Panic attacks which leave people feeling vulnerable to death, for instance, the terrorist attack which took place in September 2001.
Insights from experts on how to address these causes
While some of these causes are because of our undoing, others may be due to reasons beyond our control. Still, here is how to live a longer life and avoid these causes of a shorter lifespan.
Joining a social support group
Without a support network, it is highly likely that you will resort to loneliness, known as a cause for heart disease and depression, particularly for older people. Long healthy life secrets are found in supportive social circles. Your mind needs to be engaged with positivity which is what you need, in order to appreciate life in whichever stage you are.
When one has gone through a prolonged psychological (mind) disorder like depression, schizophrenia, dementia, or mood and personality disorder, psychotherapy helps him/her be more in control of their situation. Psychotherapy employs verbal and psychological methods in helping a patient to manage their problem by learning more about it; recognizing how they behave, feel, or think about it; and knowing how to deal or cope with it without being affected negatively.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
While this may be a form of psychotherapy, it focuses on solving the present problem while still equipping an individual with what they will need to solve such issues in the future. These include recognizing negative thinking and traits that lead to negative thinking, changing mindset, and seeing people differently in a way that will not cause depression. This way, they can focus more on problem-solving rather than worrying and being anxious about current happenings.
Relaxation eases tension and anxiety. Relaxation techniques such as exercise, meditation, massage, deep breathing, aromatherapy, and doing what one enjoys, for instance, listening to music or writing. What these do, is to boost the release of endorphins, chemicals responsible for boosting one’s moods. Relaxing regularly, for some, has gone as far as preventing depression proving to be one sure way of how to live longer and healthier.
While talk therapy would be the recommended approach to treating depression, sometimes it works together with antidepressants. These are usually prescribed when all other options have not yielded success and when the level of depression can be rated severe for instance bipolar disorder or psychosis.
Anxiety is linked to fear and more often, the more a person avoids the object of fear the more the fear of this object is magnified. Exposure therapy works by exposing one to this object of fear gradually in a safe environment. With time, fear is reduced in a process known as habituation where the patient no longer avoids the object of fear and confronts it in a way that it longer causes trauma.
Here are 8 tips on how to live longer
Without getting to the point of depression and having to deal with its effects, it is within our power to adapt your life to these practical habits to live a long and healthy life.
#1 Diet and nutrition
A study conducted in East Texas region, which happens to overlap the ‘stroke belt’ and ‘diabetes belt’, found out that due to the kind of food commonly eaten in this area, its average life expectancy was lower by 7 years compared to that of healthy people in the same region.
Red meat has been found to reduce lifespan by a significant 20 %. Some foods to eat to live longer include plant foods, whole grains, nuts, beans, low-fat dairy foods rather than ones loaded with saturated fats and artificial sweeteners, makes a whole difference in a life span. Fish like salmon, sardines, and trout are rich in omega – 3 which reduces the chances of heart disease and high blood pressure. Finally, including lots of fruits and veggies in your diet is how to live a long life without disease.
#2 Physical fitness
Try sitting down for three hours straight every day and risk an early death by up to 2 years. This does not leave out long-distance travel. Well, this may not be as serious as sitting down 11 straight hours a day which research has found to lower lifespan by up to 40 %. Sadly, it doesn’t matter if you’re working while seated or engaging in other activities. According to a study conducted by Harvard Researchers, sitting and watching the screen at the same time is even more detrimental to your health since this puts you at a higher risk of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Your body could do with muscle tension release from standing, walking, cycling, or running around.
Sitting down too long is associated with low metabolic activity, an inappropriate sitting posture which may cause spine and back injuries, lower back pressure, and rheumatic condition. Try moving within your seat, performing some tasks while standing, talking a walk from time to time, and if you have to be there working a stand-up desk could come in handy. Others have found out how to live longer at their workplace by setting up their work stations on a treadmill which has paid off because motion is as important to the body as a good diet.
#3 Social and emotional fitness
Life is about relationships. I want to live longer much as you do, therefore in relationships, people need to accommodate each other. A good social network helps you to live a longer life by up to 50 %, studies have found out. You need at least 3 social ties and you have yourself a good life as this enhances your brain and heart function as well as immunity. This is because loneliness and isolation have been found to be the top causes of stress. In fact, a study conducted and reported in the Journal Plos Medicine, equates prolonged loneliness to smoking 15 cigarettes every day.
For the seniors, seniors with many friends, family, and a supportive community around them had a 22 % more chance of living longer. Finally, being emotionally fit is not just about being on the receiving end. Conversely, you are more fulfilled and happier giving support to others in your social circle.
#4 Sleep and rest
As hard as this may be to people with crazy timelines, it takes 7 to 8 hours of night sleep and a nap in the course of the day as needed in order to be healthy. Note that too much or too little sleep is considered unhealthy. If say, you sleep for 6 hours per night, you stand a 12 % chance of dying before your time. At the same time, a study has found that sleeping more than 9 hours per night reduces your lifespan by 38 %.
Sleep enhances the proper functioning of body cells which is what the body needs to heal after a hard day’s work or when being treated for an illness. Ever wondered why doctors recommend bed rest during treatment? Secondly, it is not just how long you sleep but also about your sleeping patterns.
Missing sleep continuously should be avoided at all costs as it puts one at a greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease, dementia, and memory related problems.
#5 Being happy
Several studies carried out linking happiness with longer life found that being happy can reduce your chances of premature death by 3.7 % or increase your life by up to 18 % compared to the less happy people. One such study done on Catholic nuns reported that those were happiest at the age of 22 had a 2.5 times more chance of being alive 60 years later. This is because happiness is an excellent mood booster and among the top long life healthy secrets.
#6 Marriage and sex
Taking longer to find a mate, opting to remain single, being in a difficult marriage can actually affect how long you live! In a study done by Harvard Medical School, it was discovered that communities with a dominance of either gender tended to have shorter lifespans. This is backed by another study which found that opting to remain single increased the chances of early death by up to 32 %. It isn’t much about social life but more about the sex life.
Secondly, people in a marriage who had unsatisfied sex over time had a higher chance, up to 50 %, of dying early. Sex comes with several benefits including relaxation, exercise, happiness, fulfillment, as well as enhanced immunity.
#7 Vocation and employment
Work does not have to end with retirement. Neither should one stay unemployed during their youth as this increases their chances of dying early by 63 %. Next to smoking, failing to secure a job was the other reason behind the increased number of deaths.
Do you have a reason to delay your retirement, monetary gains aside? We think yes. Apart from the fulfillment, there is much to gain from, the peer social support in the workplace.
And if you don’t find fulfillment in working past your retirement, be an asset to your community by volunteering your skills and experience, and this will be of more benefit to you than to the community you are giving back to. While at this, however, don’t skimp on socializing with friends and family and having some time to relax and rest.
#8 Tea and coffee
Well, this depends on how much you love these two beverages. Research has backed this habit through its findings. Taking up to 8 mugs of coffee each day, research has found, will make you live longer by reducing the risk of early death. Ground, decaffeinated, and instant coffee, in particular, were found to be more beneficial. Researchers have, however, put a disclaimer on this. Don’t increase your regular intake with this discovery and do not take coffee through pregnancy.
When all is said and done, we will not fail to mention some bad habits that should be avoided at all costs.
- Being a couch potato
- Driving without your seatbelt on
- Allowing stress and anxiety to build up without doing anything about it
- Leaving out fruits and veggies from your diet
- Resenting or fearing your sunset years
- Snubbing the check-up appointments