Longevity Blues: 5 Innocent Things That Might Be Killing You

Photo courtesy of SLR Jester via Flickr, modified by Curiousmatic. 

There seem to be dozens of new and unavoidable threats facing humanity everyday, as even the most inane things often appear to secretly carry costly baggage to health and mortality.

Here are five seemingly innocent, and often unavoidable things that may be shortening your lifespan. We’re sorry in advance.

1. Sitting down

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, modified by Curiousmatic.

Unless you are standing while reading this article, you are doing a tragic disservice to your body, research finds. That’s right – sitting anywhere for over three hours a day, a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute says, raises risks of disability, diabetes, heart disease and cancer, and may shave up to two years off your life.

Tragically, offsetting sitting with some time at the gym won’t undo its ill-effects.

Now, what if you’re sitting and watching TV? Big nope: “Every single hour of television watched after the age of 25 reduces the viewer’s life expectancy by 21.8 minutes,” says the New York Times.

2. Your relationship status

Photo courtesy of Blek via Flickr, modified by Curiousmatic.

A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that single men and women die anywhere from seven to 17 years before their married peers.

Another study found that prolonged loneliness was as bad for lifespan as smoking 15 cigarettes a day; and a study among men found that those enduring prolonged “dry spells” had 50 percent higher mortality rates. (No, the researcher didn’t make that up to convince his wife to sleep with him more often.)

3. Eating and drinking

Photo courtesy of Michael Cote via Flickr, modified by Curiousmatic.

A recent study also found that eating red meat can shorten lifespan, increasing risk of death, cancer, and heart disease — in spite of those in favor of paleo diets reminiscent of hunter-gatherer days.

Skim milk has also been found worse for weight than whole, too much water can kill you, and popcorn? Forget about it.

Alcohol on the other hand is surprisingly okay. Those who don’t drink any, a study found, are more likely to die prematurely than those drink in moderation.

4. Your genes

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, modified by Curiousmatic.

Though lifestyle has been determined to affect longevity more than genetics, those whose ancestors lived longer have been shown to have generally higher life expectancies.

But there are other genetic factors that might have a say in your lifespan as well. For example, being the eldest child has been linked with higher risk of heart disease, and being the eldest son with higher rates of testicular cancer.

As for girls, those with more fat on their thighs and butts have a decreased chance of heart disease, while large-breasted women live an average of five years less than smaller-chested women.

For this you can say “thanks, Mom.” But if you’re male, you’d better apologize, because having a son raised her risk of death by 7 percent for each boy.

5. Your commute

Photo courtesy of Ruchard Moross via Flickr, modified by Curiousmatic.

Keeping the hazards of sitting  in mind, it’s not so surprising that those with longer daily commutes on average die sooner than those that live close to their jobs.

Aside from the sitting, stress is an important factor. Whichever aspect is worse, commuting was found to take a significant toll on the body, mind, and relationships of individuals, and correlate with much earlier deaths for women than men– especially for those with lower income and education levels.

Wealthier first-class elites frequenting planes instead of trains might not be much better off. The cosmic radiation that comes with frequent air travel makes flying from New York to Tokyo every couple of months equivalent to working with radioactive equipment daily.

Pilots and flight attendants are also more likely to die of cancer.

Bonus killers

In case you weren’t worried enough, being an atheist, being unemployed, living at low altitudes, wearing sunscreen, not wearing sunscreen, and retiring early could also lead to your eventual (inevitable?) and untimely demise.

But don’t be scared.

Seriously, don’t be scared: fearing death shortens life expectancy, too.

Now, you can either pretend this list doesn’t exist, or cheer up by reading our article on how in spite of these risk factors, life expectancy is increasing worldwide (complete with tips for longevity boosts).

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Jennifer Markert