6 Seemingly Random Things That Are Life Or Death
Eat all the kale you want, but death is coming for you either way. You may be watching out for the obvious-reckless drivers, preventable diseases, slippery chainsaws, etc.-but you never hear the shot that takes you down. Even if you did, you might not even recognize it as a shot. It could be something that seems totally harmless, like ...
Being A Slow Walker
Your walking speed says a lot about you. For example, if you're a slow walker, it means (among other things) that you're not welcome in any of the five boroughs of New York City. On the bright side for everyone around you, you will die sooner.
Walking involves a lot more than just your legs; it requires the cooperation of your musculoskeletal, visual, central nervous, and peripheral nervous systems. That's, like, all of your body, so a lower walking speed is associated with a lot of nasty age-related illnesses like cardiovascular disease, dementia, and early mortality. Women who walk at speeds of over 4 mph can expect to live a whopping 15 years longer than the jerks that walk at less than 3 mph. For men, this translates to 20 more years of power-walking and looking stupid.
At least this is something you can control, right? Not really: According to some research, by the time you're three years old, there is enough neurocognitive evidence to determine whether you'll be a fast or a slow walker, so bust out that new chronometer and get your kiddos power-walking to the potty. There's so much to do and so little time when they're that age.
Dating Younger Men
Marrying a woman half his age might earn a dude a lot of side-eyes, but it also means he'll probably have more years of life than his socially appropriate peers. Sven Drefahl, a German demographer who studied the phenomenon in 2010, believes this is either because healthy people attract younger partners, or because younger wives are better equipped to care for aging husbands. Although, it seems likely that the kind of man who can land a young trophy wife can probably also pay someone else to check his blood pressure every hour on the hour.
Sadly, because facts are often sexist and rude, it doesn't work the same way for women. A woman over 50 married to a man 16 years younger than her is 40% more likely to die by the end of the year than if she'd married someone more mature. Are men just shitty caregivers? Probably not -- it's hard to tell because those ill-fated cougars tend to die of accidents, not illness. Going cub-hunting and sky-diving are just two different flavors of thrill-seeking for such women. Maybe they don't prefer younger men at all, but those men are simply more attracted to that kind of dangerous woman, while old Gramps couldn't keep up.
Whatever the case, we'd urge caution to the Demi Moores of the world in both arenas, except we know they won't turn up their hearing aids to listen. Shine on, you crazy grandmas.
Making Less Money Than Your Neighbor
When you're house-hunting, it's a good idea to step outside and take a look around the neighborhood, but usually, you'd be looking for signs of value-depreciating dereliction or, god forbid, children on bicycles. Next time, make sure the surrounding homes aren't too nice, either, or you might end up killing yourself.
Despite what your entire life might lead you to believe, suicide rates are higher in wealthier neighborhoods, according to a 2006 study by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco (and it does seem like they would know). Specifically, they're higher for those neighborhoods' lower-income residents-you know, the guy who can only afford a Tesla and not a Maserati. All other things being equal, including their own income, a person living in an area with a higher average income has a 4.5% greater risk of suicide than if they lived in a slightly more modest, potentially non-gated community.
According to the researchers, it's all about the social pressure. Day in and day out, you see televisions the size of your Honda Civic and hot tubs made of freshly-polished mermaid bras getting wheeled into the guy next door's house, and you feel like you have to keep up. You don't wanna look like a loser, so you max out your credit cards, take out a second mortgage, start a demanding side-hustle dealing black market Pokemon cards, whatever it freaking takes. Before you know it, you're in over your head. You're filing for bankruptcy, and the Pokemafia is looking for you. The walls start closing in. That's not a hypothetical: When a person wins the lottery, the bankruptcy rate of everyone else in their neighborhood goes up. (Also, the Pokemafia is very real.) We can make fun of billionaires living on their own private islands, but they're likely performing a real public health service.
The Stock Market
When something bad happens, especially something bad happening to our money, we get all more agitated than a washing machine full of quarters. Usually, the worst that happens is we spend everything we have left on frozen depression burritos, but according to one study from the University of Zurich, it can actually lead to our deaths. It's not just heart attacks caused by the aforementioned frozen depression burritos, either. They found that with a stock market loss of just 1%, fatal car accidents go up almost 0.5%. People get distracted by thoughts of their plummeting IRAs, they don't look both ways before they turn, and suddenly, their IRA didn't matter anyway. Half a percent doesn't seem like a lot until you remember what one single car accident can do to the entire traffic system around Atlanta.
But it's not not heart attacks, either. A Chinese study found that for every 100-point change in the Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index, there were more than 5% more deaths from coronary heart disease. Those cartoons that show a banker get some scary financial news, causing his eyes to pop out of his head right before he faints are honestly not that far off. You know how every time Trump tweets a lot, the market falls? We don't encourage this sort of behavior, but if you wanted to yell at someone that he keeps causing tiny genocides, you could certainly make that case.
A Strong Economy
You would think that when the economic winds are favorable, then, that the ship of life and health sail smoothly. But apparently, those winds just make the ship sink faster. An increase of just 1% in gross domestic product in a developed country comes with an increase in mortality rates across a lot of age groups, especially for men. When the economy is on the right track, mortality increases by 0.36% for men in their early seventies and 0.38% for men in their early forties-in other words, their prime Wolf of Wall Street years. Is that it? Are strippers and blow killing these guys off?
Kind of! When a strong economy leads to less unemployment and therefore more money, people tend to increase their spending on fatty foods and other unhealthy vices. In fact, according to economist Christopher Ruhm, recessions are good for your health. In hard times, there are less traffic-related deaths and pollution, and people go to the doctor more often. It makes some sense: If you don't have a job, you're less inclined to buy a car or spend money on gas, so you walk more. You also have more time on your hands for descending into a WedMD rabbit hole.
So, which one would you like? To live longer in shitty times, or to go out in a blaze of money?