Not ready to start hanging out with the ghosts and ghouls just yet? Don’t worry, researchers have discovered some devilishly easy ways to extend your lifespan. (The photo is a clue...)
1. Trust thy neighbour
It turns out that giving other people the benefit of the doubt isn’t just an altruistic activity — trusting people you don’t know may actually give you a few extra months of life. A study of 25,000 Americans from a variety of social and ethnic backgrounds between 1978 and 2019 found that those who were suspicious of others had a higher risk of premature death than those who tended to trust strangers. It isn’t clear why this might be, but prolonged mistrust may lead to greater stress, while suspicious people are perhaps more likely to also suffer from social isolation — two conditions which are associated with early death.
2. Get a dog
Whether it’s down to the cuddles, the exercise, or just having someone to moan at after a bad day, owning a dog will likely help you to live longer. Researchers at Uppsala University carried out a study of 3.4 million Swedes, noting whether or not they had a dog and following their health records for around 12 years. The results found that dog owners had a lower risk of premature death, even when adjusting the findings to take into account lifestyle and socio-economic status.
3. Throw some moves
While all physical exercise will boost your chances of clocking up a good innings, it seems that dancing is the best of all. In addition to improving cardiac health and staving off obesity and diabetes, dancing also aids mobility by strengthening joints and helps to improve balance. And best of all seems to be partner dancing and dancing where you need to learn set moves – one 2017 study showed that pensioners who went to a choreographed dance class once a week had significantly less decline in brain structure than non-dancers.
4. Hug a tree
Or just be near one. The evidence of increased wellbeing from being closeness to nature is extensive but, with specific reference to longevity, studies have shown that elderly people live longer if their home lies close to a park or other green areas — and this was true regardless of their socioeconomic status. In fact, an extensive study in the Netherlands found that general health can be predicted by amount of green space within a one or three mile radius. Other benefits of living near trees, grass and plants seem to be a reduction in aggression and crime and better mental health, and college students have even been shown to do better on tests when their room has view out over a natural setting.
5. Pay less attention
Daydreamers have long been castigated by impatient teachers and employers looking to squeeze every last drop of efficiency out of their poor pupils’ or employees’ bodies, but research now suggests that letting your mind wander is good for you. Not only are increased creativity and a better working memory more likely to be found amongst daydreamers, but the benefits can be physical too — daydreaming is associated with reduced stress and lower blood pressure. So dreamy, creative types should have a few extra years to while away with their heads in the clouds.