Time with grandchildren can help you live longer

8 Key Factors of Longevity

8 Key Factors of Longevity

Scientifically reviewed by: Michael A. Smith, MD

When it comes to living longer, it's all in the family—spending time with your family, that is! A new study found that there are 8 key factors for longevity which, surprisingly, have nothing to do with physical or medical factors, age-related or otherwise. While these factors ranged from neighborhood cleanliness to control over finances, a quarter of them had to do with relationships with others—specifically their children. On the flip side, feeling isolated due to lack of connections was shown to have a negative impact on lifespan.

The findings, based on results from a survey aptly coined the Social Frailty Index, drew from over 183 social predictors to identify eight predictors of death within the next four years among adults 65 and up. Two of the most significant factors of premature death included whether the subjects saw their children less than yearly and whether they engaged with young people regularly—be that neighborhood children or their grandchildren.

The study, conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of California, San Francisco, aimed to establish just how significant an impact social factors have on longevity and risk of overall mortality, with lead author Sachin J. Shah concluding that when considering longevity, "we often overemphasize the importance of medical conditions," and that "social lives are as important as medical conditions."

What are the 8 key factors for longevity?

Even though social factors tied to lifestyle have long been tied to mortality, they often aren't used in prediction models, which tend to rely almost exclusively on physical characteristics like demographics and medical comorbidities.

The researchers of the study recruited 8,250 adults aged 65 and up, giving them a survey that accounted for a variety of social factors, with a follow up four years after the baseline survey. By the period of follow up, 22% of the adults had died. Using a machine learning tool to analyze the surveys, the researchers came to the conclusion that specific social factors could be used to predict death.

After taking 183 possible longevity predictors from the Social Frailty Index, the 8 specific lifestyle factors that were found to be linked to risk of death within four years include:

  • Lack of neighborhood cleanliness
  • Perceived lack of control over their financial situation
  • Meeting their own children less than yearly
  • Not working for pay
  • Limited opportunities to engage with children (including grandchildren or neighborhood children)
  • Not actively volunteering
  • Feeling isolated
  • Being treated with less courtesy or respect

These results just go to show that a well-rounded environment is essential for living a happy and healthy life. From cleanliness of your environment and perceived financial situations to time engaged in certain types of work to labor or simply not being lonely, living long comes down to two basic things: comfort and connection. And it's important that they are treated with the same respect as physical and medical risk factors to support anti-aging efforts and life expectancy.

Does having good relationships with your children help you live longer?

Did you know that just by having children you're contributing to your longevity? It's true. Research has found a positive correlation between simply being a parent and increasing your longevity odds. And it may not be purely physiological. Positive impacts have even been found on adoptive parents' life expectancy. A big part of this has to do with having a good relationship with your children—and probably a major reason why parents seeing their children at least yearly is an important measure of healthy longevity.

Some of the positive impacts on lifespan and mortality risk that come from being a parent include having someone to care for you as you age (adult children returning the favor of being cared for by their parents—talk about labor of love!), along with built-in social interactions (your parents are your first friends, after all). Even having grandchildren can contribute to longevity—from cultivating those social interactions with them to feeling forever young with the physical exertion that comes with keeping up with the go-go-go habits of children.

What About People Who Don’t Have Children?

While many factors that come from being a parent are in fact associated with longevity, this doesn't mean that those who are childless automatically don't live as long as parents do, or are on their way to an early death. When it comes down to it, a major predictor of lifespan involves the strength of your connections. So while you might not have that built-in relationship a parent has with a child, it just means you have to work harder to prioritize a strong social network and relationships. And remember, one of the longevity factors Shah's team found includes simply engaging with children in your community.

Other social factors that influence longevity

While there were only so many factors included in the Social Frailty Index Survey, one thing was clear when it came to longevity: connection isn't just important; it's necessary! It's been shown that forging relationships—be that in your neighborhood or in other parts of your community— contributes to healthy aging and living longer. This is especially important if you live alone. Having a confidante and a support system around you is a great way to promote a long life. Research has even found that people with larger social networks were about 45% less likely to die early.

Some key ways to make sure you're taking part in your community include joining a team (sports fans, anyone?) or a book club (what's better than meeting to discuss your latest interesting read?) and even volunteering for local events (also one of the 8 keys to longevity, according to the Social Frailty Index). These social habits will help you not only feel like you're a part of your immediate community, but also can contribute to keeping isolation and loneliness away.

Want to live longer? Adopt these 5 healthy habits

While it might be news that social connections are linked to longevity, it probably comes as no surprise that prioritizing healthy lifestyle habits is equally as important to living a long and healthy life.

Some of these habits include:

  1. Follow a healthy diet

    —It's a no-brainer: eating well directly impacts your health. Emphasize eating high-quality foods, including fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Try to avoid ultra-processed foods, swap red meat for lean or plant-based protein (the Mediterranean diet is a good healthy lifestyle to follow!), and limit intake of alcohol. What you put in truly does determine what you get out.
  2. Making physical activity a priority

    —Not only can it help you maintain a healthy weight, but regular exercise and physical activity will benefit both your physical health and your mental health. From resistance training (did you know that your grip strength is tied to lifespan and biological age, too?) to aerobic exercises, like running or swimming, the health benefits of regular exercise are endless. The CDC emphasizes the significance of these benefits—including lower risks of chronic conditions and chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, depression, anxiety, and even dementia.

    The World Health Organization recommends incorporating 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week (or 75-150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity if you're an overachiever!) in your lifestyle to confer health benefits.

  3. Targeted vitamin and mineral regimen

    —While proper nutrition is important, adding vitamins and minerals to your diet is another great healthy habit to incorporate—making sure your overall dietary intake is well-rounded is essential. From minerals like zinc that support your immune system, to your basic A-E vitamins to avoid deficiencies, as well as healthy staples like omega-3 fatty acids and multivitamins, incorporating healthy nutrients with science-backed benefits into your diet is a must-have part of a healthy routine.
  4. Manage your stress

    —Unmanaged stress impacts your overall well-being and can be detrimental to your overall health. While we need some healthy stress to recognize danger and other threats, when it goes unchecked, it can contribute to physical ailments, like heart disease and high blood pressure, and can even impact your overall mental health. The next time you're feeling stressed, try calling a friend to relieve some of the pressure or brew up a nice cup of green tea and try to practice mindful meditation until you feel like you're on a more even keel.
  5. Get adequate sleep

    —Sleep is one of the single most important habits you can adopt to stay healthy. Sleep benefits every part of your body and helps you restore your mind and body from the demands of everyday life and wake up refreshed the next day. Not getting enough sleep is tied to serious health risks that can impact your healthy lifespan, so it's important to get at least 8 hours of restful sleep every night.



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The Life Extension Health News team delivers accurate information about vitamins, nutrition and aging. Our stories rely on multiple, authoritative sources and experts. We keep our content accurate and trustworthy, by submitting it to a medical reviewer.