5 Seemingly Harmful Things That Make You Live Longer
Thanks to Oprah and pharmaceutical commercials, we're all pretty aware of what it takes to live a healthy life: vitamins, exercise and colon-cleansing yogurt. Unless you pay attention to a little thing called science, which says that there are plenty of random and even bad habits that will help us live longer. For example ...
Living in a Recession
It doesn't seem possible that a recession would make you live longer. After all, while life is more important than money, you need money to buy the things that keep you alive. So in turbulent economic times, you would expect the life expectancy of the population to lower as unemployment increases and nobody can afford to pay for doctors and Flintstones vitamins. Also, instead of eating expensive fresh fruit and vegetables, we subsist on the warm bowl of salt and fat we call ramen noodles. But the statistics show that, incredibly, economic hardship actually increases life expectancy.
"My sewer rat and cigar butt soup is a natural elixir."
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the death rate in the U.S. declined and life expectancy rose during the whole financial collapse from 2007 to 2010. And it's not just coincidence, either. According to one expert, the numbers are oddly specific -- every percentage point increase in unemployment translates to 12,000 fewer deaths per year. And we've seen it in the past, too -- during the peak years of the Great Depression, life expectancy grew by six years. That's not 0.6 years; we mean six actual years.
So what's going on here? Are people actually dying but opting for a fireplace cremation so their deaths go unreported? Does God hate poors and not want them in heaven?
"He told me to come back when I have a job, then called me a hippie and threw change in my face."
None of the above. While suicide rates do rise during tough times, just about every other kind of fatality drops. Fewer people can afford to go out, so fewer cars are on the road. Boom -- fewer traffic fatalities. Unhealthy vices like cigarettes, liquor and restaurant food become luxuries.
Plus, staying home means forming stronger bonds with family, which is universally known to be good for you, even accounting for the families who wind up murdering each other after the 10th consecutive argument about which way the toilet paper should hang. Even the thing that's causing the recession -- unemployment itself -- is good for your stress levels, and fewer people suffer heart attacks.
Whatever, pussy. Should have quit your job.
See, unemployed college grads? If everything goes right, you could be living in crushing poverty until you're 80 or 90 years old.
This is another one that seems impossible. We all know of at least one famous person (or a dozen) who drank himself to death, or who died in a drunken accident. Hell, it seems like drunk driving alone would push the mortality rate for drinkers through the roof. For all of the reasons that Prohibition was a terrible idea, they did have one part right: Drinking alcohol is bad for you. Right?
Wrong. People who totally abstain from alcohol have a higher mortality rate than those who occasionally imbibe.
"And that, my friends, is why I'm always drunk at work."
Now, we know what you're thinking: Some of those abstainers are probably abstaining after a lifetime of constant boozing. Of course they're one sneeze from meeting their maker when their livers are ticking time bombs -- hell, they probably only stopped drinking because their doctors made them. But no, even when you factor the former heavy drinkers out of the equation, non-drinkers are still more likely to die younger than moderate drinkers.
In a 20-year study of 1,824 participants, people who had one to three drinks a day were two times more likely to live longer than those who stuck with water and soda pop.
So moderate drinking isn't bad for you. But now get ready for this newsflash: Even drunks live longer than teetotalers. Yep, during the 20 years of this study, 69 percent of the non-drinkers dropped dead, 60 percent of the heavy drinkers died and only 41 percent of the moderate drinkers went to that moderate bar in the sky.
Why? Experts think there are a few behavioral things at play here. One is that non-drinkers tend to have fewer social ties and less family support than casual drinkers. Surprisingly, people who don't drink also skew toward having lower income and education levels, in addition to fewer friends, all of which are factors in the longevity game.
"Two more shots of tequila and you can call me the goddamn Highlander."
Having a Large Family
You'd think that with all the body-ripping and stress associated with pregnancy, childbirth and babies that each kid would knock a few years off a woman's life. In what kind of world would varicose veins in the vagina be a good thing, after all? This one, it turns out. Women who have more kids tend to add years to their life as they have them. Dads, too. For proof, look no further than the Amish.
Researchers studied 937 mothers and 1,078 fathers from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, going back to 1749. What they found was that for every kid up to baby No. 14, lifespan increased for the mom by 0.32 years and for dad by 0.23 years. In other words, every four kids bought dads almost a year of life! Finally, a good reason for having sex!
"Hey, I was thinking maybe you could come over later and we could add eight minutes to each others' lives."
So, you're probably thinking "Hey, the Amish are a hearty, clean-living folk. That's not me!" Fine. A 20-year study in another part of the world came to the same conclusions. In 1988 and 1989, over 2,800 elderly people from Dubbo, Australia, agreed to check in with researchers until the day they died. Old ladies who never had children experienced the highest mortality rate, but old ladies who had farted out six or more kids had a 40 percent lower death risk than those who kept their legs crossed every now and then. Does that mean there's a whole colony of immortal Australian women? We'll never know.
We also don't know why women who have more kids live longer. It could be that moms with bigger families have stronger social networks that keep them going longer. Or maybe the more kids you have, the greater chance you have of getting cool and helpful microchimeric fetal cells that benefit your body. Or maybe they just have more motivation to cling to life, to see how their kids turn out. You're not paying attention to any of this anyway, because you're still too busy imagining Amish people fucking.
"Wait. It's a-rockin'. We'll wait a few minutes before we come a-knockin'."
Don't Be Too Cheerful
We've got good news for people who love bad news and bad news for that goofball who's always so cheerful at the office. You know the one -- the person who never shows up in a bad mood and always remembers your birthday with cupcakes and squishy hugs. According to an eight-decade study discussed in The Longevity Project, people who approach life with an overly optimistic, cheerful, happy-go-lucky attitude aren't the longest-living people on the planet. Which suddenly makes every rom-com's manic pixie dream girl a tragic figure. Eat it, Zooey!
So, again, how can this be possible? Aren't grumpy people constantly at risk for high blood pressure and all of those other stress-related illnesses?
"I'm 113 years old and fueled by pure hate. Fuck you."
Well, the study found that optimistic, extroverted people are way less cautious than grumps. It's the happy types who take more risks and are less aware of adverse consequences. They're the ones who dance in the rain and get struck by lightning. Or, more likely, do all the drugs and OD. Why worry about consequences when you're so sure the sun will come out tomorrow, no matter what? They'll keep believing that right until somebody zips up the body bag.
You know who you want to be like? The obsessive-compulsive, organized nerd. The person who carries an umbrella all summer, because you never know. When the researchers behind The Longevity Project dug into their data, they discovered a pattern:
Aside from these types, who get shot in the face more than others.
"The findings clearly revealed that the best childhood personality predictor of longevity was conscientiousness -- the qualities of a prudent, persistent, well-organized person, like a scientist-professor -- somewhat obsessive and not at all carefree."
Do you hear that, free spirits? You're going to DIE YOUNG, just like you always wanted.
Some within a matter of a just a few blocks.
It's a classic ethical dilemma for every man: Would you rather die young with your balls intact or live to 100 without them? You probably remember the question from your entry-level college philosophy class. It's a good question, because it turns out that eunuchs might live longer than their nutted contemporaries ... by over 10 freaking years.
Researchers have known for ages that castrated rats engage in safer behaviors, are less aggressive and generally outlive their genitally intact friends. And we also know that human males are often negatively affected by their own testosterone -- man juice can promote heart disease, riskier activities like smoking and picking fights at bars, and pursuing professional wrestling as a career. All this is great information, but it doesn't add up to a hill of balls if it doesn't translate to the real world.
"It's OK, honey, soon your dad will be aware of all kinds of new things."
Well, it turns out that there are people who might benefit from castration in the same way rats do: eunuchs. And forcibly castrated sex criminals, we guess, but we won't talk about them.
There was a time when certain boys were castrated so they could grow up to be harem guards and palace officials without anyone worrying about them making power plays. In Korea, eunuchs traded their private parts for the particular privilege of getting to marry and adopt children, even as they worked like slaves for the royal dynasty. They also kept amazing records -- which is how we know that the average lifespan of a eunuch serving in the Chosun Dynasty was 70, while the average lifespan of contemporaries was about 53. Royalty died even younger, as if the stress of managing a country was a year-sucker.
"Let's get started on that will, princess."
On average, those who gave up their man bits ended up living between 14 and 19 years longer than those who didn't, and a few of them even made it past 100. At a time when medicine wasn't a thing and people died from infected hangnails, these guys were kicking life's ass. The same trend was found in a Kansas mental hospital in the early 1900s where some patients were castrated and lived about 13 years longer than their uncastrated counterparts.
So that suddenly makes the "large Amish family" option way more appealing.
For reasons why you might be dying soon, check out 7 Random Things You Won't Believe Are Shortening Your Life. And discover 5 Random Factors That Determine Whether You Succeed in Life.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 3 Bizarre Ways Animals Have Learned to Speak Like Humans.
And stop by LinkSTORM because it's Friday and who even cares anymore.
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