Top tips to live long and prosper

Article date: 16 March 2009

  • Norwich Union identifies 15 (theoretical) secrets of a long life

A series of 15 simple steps could - in theory - add up to 77 years to your life, according to new research from Norwich Union. What's more, a positive outlook and laughing a lot could add more years than a balanced diet and staying in shape!

Data from Norwich Union, soon to be Aviva, has identified a list of 15 factors which could - theoretically - bump up the UK average life expectancy1.

The study pinpoints how many years certain habits or lifestyle choices could actually add to an individual. The age enhancers range from the more obvious - such as not smoking and maintaining a healthy weight - to the more bizarre, such as flossing one's teeth or having a pet! For example:

Be married/live with a partner - add one year2
Norwich Union data shows people who are married or live with a partner can expect to live on average a year more than their single friends.

Maintain a healthy weight - add six years2
Being severely obese (having a BMI of above 40) could reduce your life expectancy by around four years. According to the Food Standards Agency a healthy BMI level is between 18.5 and 25. On the other hand, being underweight might reduce your life expectancy by around two years, so maintaining a healthy weight is vital.

Don't smoke - add 10 years
People can add as much as 10 years to their lives simply by not smoking. Research carried out at the University of Helsinki has found that that people who don't smoke can expect to live up 10 years longer than those who smoke 20 cigarettes a day.

Love to laugh - add eight years3
According to scientific studies, people who laugh for 15 minutes each day could live add an extra eight years to their lives.

Be a woman! - add 3.3 years4
Right around the world, women tend to outlive men by around 10%. According to Government statistics, currently in the UK women have a projected average life expectancy of 91.8 years at birth, compared to 88.5 years for men.

Clear out the clutter - add one year5
People who live in jumble and chaos are more likely to feel stressed and depressed. Sorting out this disorder can add another year.

Eat well... - add 6.6 years
According to Erasmus University in Rotterdam, a diet which includes daily consumption of garlic, wine, vegetables, fruits, almonds and dark chocolate could extend life expectancy by up to 6.6 years.

... and eat less meat! - add 3.6 years
A study carried out at Loma University in the US found that people who ate meat less than once a week on average lived 3.6 years longer than their carnivore counterparts.

Have a positive outlook - add nine years5
Studies have shown that those with an optimistic outlook are less prone to viruses and recover quicker from illnesses and injuries. These people tend to act in "healthier" ways than negative people by taking more exercise and enjoying social activities.

Live in Eastbourne - add 6.2 years
According to The Grim Reaper's Road Map, a study compiled by the University of Sheffield, inhabitants of West Eastbourne in East Sussex have the longest life expectancy of any town in Great Britain, living 6.2 years higher than the national GB average. Central Livingston in East Central Scotland has the lowest life expectancy in Great Britain at 67.2 years.

Keep the faith - add three years
Numerous studies have unearthed links between having a faith and enjoying a long life. According to the University of Pittsburgh, people who attend weekly religious services can expect to live around three years longer than non-attenders.

Be born later - add up to 6.1 years
According to the Government Actuary's Department (GAD), people born 25 years ago had an average life expectancy of 84.6 years for men and 88.5 years for women. People born in 2009 now have an average life expectancy of 88.5 (males) and 91.8 (females). Predictions from GAD suggest that people born 25 years from now could live as long as 91.7 (men) and 94.6 (women)!

Get a good night's sleep - add five years5
Poor sleep can contribute to a number of medical factors which can put people at risk of heart disease. Those who regularly get at least six or seven hours' sleep can hope to live up to five years longer than those who sleep badly.

Floss your teeth - add six years6
Flossing your teeth daily can add as much as six years to your life expectancy by removing harmful bacteria that can contribute to cardiovascular disease.

Get a pet! - add two years5
US research shows that people with pets are less likely to suffer from depression and visit their doctors less often than those without. It is also said that stroking a pet can reduce blood pressure and stress levels.

Darren Dicks, head of annuities, says: "A person's life expectancy is pre-determined to some extent by their genetic make-up, but there are a number of steps people can take to give themselves the best chance of living longer.

"While we aren't really suggesting that someone adopting all of these practices will automatically add more than 70 years to their life, our research shows that broadly speaking these activities will have an effect on life expectancy.

"People in general are living longer, so it's ever-more important that people think now about how they are going to fund their later lives. People in their 20s and 30s should look to get advice sooner rather than later to enjoy their longer lives as much as possible. By changing our actions and outlooks and by planning ahead, we could - in theory - hope to live longer and enjoy ourselves all the more at the same time!"


1 For females: The Government Actuary's Department shows that females born in 2009 have a projected life expectancy of 91.8 years. By adding together the extra years provided by all of the separate activities listed above, one could in theory add 76.8 years to their life expectancy. This, added to the original life expectancy of 91.8 years for women born in 2009, gives a total of 168.6 years.

Source: Government Actuary's Department: Cohort expectation of life tables 2006: Life expectations for males born in 2009: 88.5 years; for females 91.8 years.

2 Source: Norwich Union annuities.

3 Source: Humour specialist, Kate Hull Rodgers Humour Us.

4 Source: Government Actuary's Department: Cohort expectation of life tables 2006: life expectancies for people born 2009.

5 Source: The Long Life Equation, Dr Tricia Macnair

6 Source: The University of Chicago

Press office contacts:

Sarah Poulter: 01904 452828 / out of hours 07800 691569

Notes to editors:

About Norwich Union
Norwich Union is one of the UK's biggest life insurers. It is a leading provider of life, pensions and investment products and one of the largest financial adviser (FA) providers. FAs provide over 70% of the company's long-term savings business in the UK.

Norwich Union has strategic alliances with building societies and other leading UK brand names including CIS and The Royal Bank of Scotland Group. Norwich Union's news releases and a selection of images are available from Aviva's internet press centre at

In the summer of 2009 Norwich Union will change its name to Aviva. Aviva is the world's fifth largest insurance group and operates in 27 countries. Aviva is to become the customer brand worldwide, thus enabling the company to compete even more effectively on a global scale for the benefit of customers, staff, business partners and shareholders.

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