Life expectancy is statistics. But it shows interesting dependencies on our life circumstances – even on those that we cannot all influence ourselves. For some addictions there are scientific explanations, for others not yet. Here’s a list of the factors that give you the best chance:
You live longer when.
1. You are a woman – or a monk
It’s the same almost everywhere in the world: women live longer than men on average. In Germany, these are a whole five years differenceWhile the life expectancy of girls is 83.1 years, it is 78.2 years for boys. Why?
In fact, a woman’s biology might give her a slight advantage: While she has a double X chromosome – and thus always has a "back-up" – she also has a double X chromosome in the rear, if one chromosome is defective – men have only one X and one Y chromosome. If a mistake creeps in there, they can’t fall back on an intact copy. It is possible that the different hormone balance also plays a role. But: Both theories are still speculation.
The connection to the different lifestyles is clearly more visible: Men have a riskier lifestyle – more alcohol, poorer nutrition, fewer preventive checkups and more accidents. That the way of life is the more decisive factor can be deduced from a study by the scientist Marc Luy. Luy examined monks and nuns living under almost identical circumstances in monasteries. In fact, here the men died only about a year earlier than the female members of the order.
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2. You live in Monaco
The countries with the highest life expectancy worldwide are Monaco, Macau (in China), Japan, Singapore, San Marino and Hong Kong. They all show a life clock of more than 82 years; Germany, with its approximately 81 years, is also doing well, but neighboring countries such as Switzerland, Italy or France are still a good year ahead of us.
Bringing up the rear are African countries such as the Central African Republic, Swaziland, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where life expectancy does not exceed 55 years. The main cause of death here: Infectious diseases such as tuberculosis or malaria. As a result, infant mortality is also high – and life expectancy is lower.
3. You were born in November.
In industrialized countries, cardiovascular diseases and cancer play a much greater role – one in two of us dies from the former alone. Whether we die earlier or later from this depends on our month of birth. Greifswald researchers analyzed more than six million deaths in Germany and were able to show: People born in spring died earlier from cardiovascular disease than people born in late fall.
In figures, this means that women with birthdays in November were on average about seven months older than women born in May. For men, the difference was as much as 11.7 months – i.e almost a whole year. Researchers can only speculate about the reasons: A different exposure to sunlight, different eating habits during pregnancy, air pollution, infectious diseases, or changes in physical activity over the course of a year.
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4. You live in these regions in Germany
In Germany alone, it makes a difference where you live: on average, you’ll be the oldest in the south of Germany. They sound a bit like age strongholds: counties such as Starnberg, Munich, Lake Constance or Breisgau-Hochschwarzwald should be particularly sought after. Women have a life expectancy of well over 84 years, men over 80 years. The Hochtaunuskreis in Hesse (80.9 years for men) and Bonn (84.7 years for women) are the frontrunners outside Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemberg.
At the end of the line – with after all about seven years of age loss – structurally weak regions such as Pirmasens or Suhl lie. As in Hof County, men here have a life expectancy of only a little over 73 years; for women it is about 78 years, just as in Zweibrucken County. One possible correlation: those with higher incomes (and thus higher educational opportunities and better access to medical care) live longer.
5. You have a younger wife (men) – but definitely not a younger husband (women)
For men in particular, having a partner lowers the risk of death. But the influence of the partnership goes much further: the age difference to the spouse also plays a role! Men benefit from living with a younger partner – whereas a younger partner actually increases the risk of death in women. This was shown in a study by the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, which analyzed data from Denmark.
The greater the difference between an older man and a younger woman, the higher his life expectancy: at seven to nine years, his risk of death is reduced by 11 percent. Women, on the other hand, show the lowest risk of death if their partner is about the same age; if their partner is seven to nine years younger, on the other hand, their probability of death is increased by about 20 percent.
Thus, the positive effects that a younger partner is said to have – the older man is more mentally and physically activated and a possible caregiver exists – only apply to older men. For older women, the deviation from the social norm with a younger partner (and the accompanying exclusion) may be so great that the psychological pressure can have negative effects.
6. You don’t smoke and you’re not fat
This is not a new insight, but it is a real one: smoking, obesity and alcohol cost the most life in industrialized countries. In a large European study, the so-called "European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition, EPIC for short, have accompanied over half a million Europeans for years and documented their lifestyles. The result: Those who smoke, drink and are overweight, dies on average as a man up to 17 years earlier as comparative people who avoid all these risk factors.
As a woman it’s 13.5 years. The biggest risk factor here is smoking: More than ten cigarettes a day cause women to lose 7.3 years, men 9.4 years. With less than ten cigarettes a day, the life expectancy of both sexes is still reduced by about five years.