Senior citizens who maintain a healthy lifestyle can expect to live up to six years longerGetting healthy and quitting smoking can add five years to women's live and six years to men'sStudy also found former smokers lived just as long as those who never smoked
01:01 GMT, 31 August 2012
Living a healthy lifestyle well into old age can add six years to people’s lives – even if they have a chronic disease – according to new research.
A study of over 75s found exercise, a vibrant social life and quitting smoking can add five years to women’s lives and six years to men’s.
Fighting fit: A healthy lifestyle can add six years to the life expectancy of elderly people
Researchers measured the longevity of a group of adults aged 75 and over – basing results on factors such as lifestyle behaviours, leisure activities and social networks.
The British Medical Journal (BMJ) study followed over 1,800 people for 18 years, with data on age, sex, occupation and education also measured.
During the follow up period, 92 per cent of participants died, but half of the survivors lived longer than 90 years – with women more likely to have survived.
Results also showed survivors were more likely to be highly educated, have healthy lifestyle behaviours, have a better social network and participate in more leisure activities.
However, smokers died one year earlier than non-smokers, and former smokers exhibited similar survival patterns than those who never touched a cigarette – suggesting quitting in middle age reduces the effect on mortality.
Quit and live longer: Smokers studied died a year earlier than non-smokers
Exercise was most strongly associated with survival – the average age at death of those who regularly swam, walked or did gymnastics was two years greater than those who did not.
Overall, the average survival of people with a low risk profile – healthy lifestyle, doing at least one leisure activity and a vibrant or moderate social circle – was 5.4 years longer than those with a high risk profile.
Researchers at Stockholm University in Sweden also found those aged 85 or older with chronic conditions and a low risk profile added four years to their lives compared to participants with a high risk profile.
PhD student Debora Rizzuto said: 'This is the first study that directly provides information about differences in longevity according to several modifiable factors.
'The associations between leisure activity, not smoking, and increased survival still existed in those aged 75 years or more, with women’s lives prolonged by five years and men’s by six years.
'These associations, although attenuated, were still present among people aged 85 or more and in those with chronic conditions.
'Our results suggest that encouraging favourable lifestyle behaviours even at advanced ages may enhance life expectancy, probably by reducing morbidity.'