Years added to life. Healthy life style acts as preventative measure against four known risk factors.

healthy-lifestyleA healthy lifestyle early in life has been linked to a decreased mortality life where years are added to life. Public Health physicians at the University of Zurich have documented the impact of behavioral factors such as limiting alcohol and cigarettes to an increased life span.

The researchers used data from the Swiss National Cohort (SNC). The Zurich public health physicians focussed on CVDs and cancer as they account for the most deaths in Switzerland. The researchers succeeded in correlating data on tobacco consumption, fruit consumption, physical activity and alcohol consumption from 16,721 participants aged between 16 and 90 from 1977 to 1993 with the corresponding deaths up to 2008. The impact of the four life style choices were still measurable when biological risk factors like weight and blood pressure were taken into account as well.

“The effect of each individual factor on life expectancy is relatively high,” said Eva Martin-Diener, the lead researcher. Smoking was found to be most harmful with a 57 % change of dying prematurely. The impact of an unhealthy diet, not enough sport and alcohol abuse results in an elevated mortality risk of around 15 percent for each factor. “We were very surprised by the 2.5 fold higher risk when all four risk factors are combined,”said Brian Martin, from the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (ISPM) at the University of Zurich. The probability of a 75-year-old man with all risk factors surviving the next ten years is, for instance, 35 percent, without risk factors 67 percent for a woman 47 and 74 percent respectively.

The effects of an unhealthy life style are only felt later in life. High wine consumption, cigarettes, an unhealthy diet and physical inactivity scarcely had any effect on mortality among the 45 to 55-year-old study participants, it did have a visible effect on 65 to 75-year-old study participants. The probability of a 75-year-old man with none of the four risk factors surviving the next ten years is 67 percent, exactly the same as the risk for a smoker who is ten years younger, doesn’t exercise, eats unhealthily and drinks a lot.


Eva Martin-Diener, Julia Meyer, Julia Braun, Silvan Tarnutzer, David Faeh, Sabine Rohrmann, Brian W. Martin. The combined effect on survival of four main behavioural risk factors for non-communicable diseases. Preventive Medicine, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2014.05.023

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