Healthy lifestyle habits have been associated with good health and longevity. Researchers have now specifically identified eight habits that when adopted by middle age, can improve longevity by more than 20 years.

The team evaluated 700,000 veterans between the ages of 40 and 99 enrolled in the Veterans Affairs Million Veteran Program. During the follow-up, over 30,000 participants died.

"We looked at all-cause mortality in this study using Cox proportional hazard regression models and longevity using a multi-lifetable method, calculating the longevity for male veterans and female veterans separately," said Xuan-Mai T. Nguyen, who presented the study at Nutrition 2023, the flagship annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition in Boston.

The study showed that people who adopted eight healthy lifestyle habits by the age of 40 lived longer than the others. Adopting the lifestyle changes could potentially add 24 years to a man's life and 23 years to a woman's life, researchers said.

Know the 8 healthy habits:

  • Stay physically active
  • Avoid smoking
  • Manage stress
  • Healthy diet
  • Avoid regular binge drinking of alcohol
  • Get a good sleep routine
  • Maintain positive social relationships
  • Not develop an opioid addiction

Low physical activity, opioid use and smoking had the greatest impact on lifespan, raising the risk of death by 30 to 45%. Stress, binge drinking, poor diet and poor sleep routine raised the risk of death by around 20%, while the lack of positive social relationships contributed to a 5% increase.

The study helped to quantify the benefits of a person's healthy lifestyle choices in terms of years added to the lifespan.

"We were really surprised by just how much could be gained with the adoption of one, two, three, or all eight lifestyle factors. Our research findings suggest that adopting a healthy lifestyle is important for both public health and personal wellness. The earlier the better, but even if you only make a small change in your 40s, 50s, or 60s, it still is beneficial," Nguyen said.

Researchers said the findings confirm the role of lifestyle factors in contributing to chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, which are major contributors to premature death.