Exploring the Factors That Affect Human Longevity 

In the last century, there has been a remarkable increase in human life expectancy. In 1900, the average life expectancy was around 32 years, but over the years, it has more than doubled to an average of 76.4 years in the United States. 

While a person’s genetics usually become more influential in determining their longevity later in life, several other factors play a significant role from birth into adulthood and beyond. In this article, we’re dissecting three factors affecting life expectancy rate, empowering people to make more conscientious efforts toward leading a long and healthy life. 

What Factors Contribute to a Person’s Longevity? 

Longevity refers to the length of a person’s life from birth until death. In today’s world, we often use the term more loosely to describe an individual’s potential for a longer life. To better understand longevity, it’s essential to explore three of the main factors that play a role in a person’s ability to live a healthier and longer life. 

#1 Lifestyle 

Given the diversity of global cultures and societal norms, it’s unsurprising that people in different regions adopt varying lifestyles, ranging from athletic to sedentary (and many in between). Each of these lifestyles contributes to distinct longevity patterns. 

For instance, there are five Blue Zones around the world, each situated in a city in Japan, Greece, Sardinia, California and Costa Rica, respectively. These areas are home to some of the world’s oldest individuals, many of whom reach the ages of 90, 100 and beyond. A crucial factor believed to contribute significantly to their longevity is their lifestyle, including the following elements: 

Diet and Nutrition 

Consistently choosing healthy and balanced meals plays a key role in promoting longevity. But even if you’ve had a lifelong affinity for sweet tea, soda and frequent trips to fast-food drive-throughs, all is not lost. 

A study in the UK found that replacing sugar-sweetened beverages and processed meats with whole grains and nuts led to an improved life expectancy. It’s never too late to incorporate fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains into your daily diet. Not only can this positively impact your longevity in the long run, but you may also notice day-to-day improvements, such as increased energy levels and overall well-being. 

Physical Activity 

There’s nothing like a morning stroll to get your blood pumping and your brain waves flowing, right? From a health perspective, incorporating physical activities into your daily routine provides several benefits which may be linked to a longer life, including: 

  • Maintaining a healthy weight. 
  • Giving your mood a boost. 
  • Improving your sleep. 
  • Lowering the likelihood of certain health conditions, such as high cholesterol and depression, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. 

#2 Environment 

An individual’s environment refers to multiple external factors that can impact their health and well-being, and ultimately their longevity. Below, we explore two key components: 

Living Conditions 

Hygienic living conditions are pivotal in preventing the spread of potentially deadly diseases. Simple daily practices, such as proper waste disposal, adequate sanitation and using clean water contribute to improved health outcomes. 

However, not everyone has access to these basic living conditions, a circumstance frequently shaped by one’s economic status. This disparity may contribute to a higher likelihood of a shorter life expectancy for some individuals. 

Access to Healthcare 

It’s a simple equation: Regular access to healthcare increases the likelihood of detecting and treating health conditions early. Individuals with such access can easily schedule annual check-ups at little to no cost or pay a deductible for specialist appointments. 

In contrast, those living in rural areas or without insurance are less likely to seek treatment, whether for preventative care or to address current health conditions. Without medical care, they face a higher risk of developing serious illnesses without the necessary knowledge or medication for treatment. 

#3 Genetics 

While it’s a common perception that genetics significantly influence longevity, the reality is that genetics account for only 20% to 30% of one’s expected lifespan. Furthermore, the genetic effects on longevity become more pronounced around the age of 60, with environmental and lifestyle factors playing a more critical role at a younger age. 

It’s worth noting that individuals with a family history of longevity may have a genetic predisposition to living longer lives, as shared genetic factors within families can influence their potential life expectancy. Conversely, certain inherited traits may predispose individuals to specific diseases, potentially shortening their lifespan. For instance, a family history of breast cancer might elevate the likelihood of inheriting the BRCA gene mutation, associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. 

Elevate Your Career in the Field of Aging at the University of Florida 

As healthcare progresses and individuals adopt healthier lifestyles from a younger age, a growing number of people are surpassing the average expected lifespan of 76.4 years. With approximately 17% of the population aged 65 or older in the United States, the importance of dedicated and qualified professionals in the field of aging is increasing. 

If you’re interested in playing a fundamental role in the longevity and well-being of aging adults, the first step to embarking on your new career path includes receiving an education that’ll boost your skillset and resume. At UF, we’re proud to present three unique online graduate programs in aging: 

All of our programs have an affordable tuition rate, are entirely online and provide the flexibility to complete the work around your busy schedule. Once you’ve chosen the program that’s right for you, take the first step and apply today!