Americans Want to Live Longer, But They Don’t Take Steps to Ensure Longevity

Mark D. Gomez, MD
By Mark D. Gomez, MD
October 17, 2022
How can you extend your health span? Man holding back hands of time.

Longevity isn’t about age. Lifestyle choices can help you live younger for longer.   

Think about your longevity: If you could live to any age, what would it be? In a new MDVIP/Ipsos study, more than half of Americans say they would like to live to the age of 100 or older.

Respondents also say they want to know the secrets to living and feeling younger than their calendar age and feel as if they have a lot of control over how long they live. I find these sentiments encouraging, because it means we are starting to pay more attention to aging as something to embrace in life, not dread.

However, three in four survey respondents failed our quiz that tests general knowledge about the factors that influence longevity. That concerns me because, even though 87% of respondents said they aspire to “live younger,” it seems many are unaware of the factors within our control that are scientifically proven to contribute to longevity.

What does longevity mean?

Longevity isn’t just defined by the number of years you will live (your life span). Essentially, longevity means maximizing the number of healthy years of your life, or what is referred to as “health span.”

The factors that influence longevity include not only the medical advances that have improved health outcomes and quality of life, such as stem-cell therapy and wearable tech, but also the lifestyle choices within your control every day.

Research published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings suggests that less than 3% of American adults achieve four of the most compelling healthy living characteristics: healthy diet, moderate exercise, not smoking, and low body fat. These measures, along with stress levels, sleep habits, social engagement and mental health, play a significant role in a healthier life and longevity.  

Can longevity be inherited?

Seven in 10 Americans say they take better care of their health than their parents did, according to the MDVIP/Ipsos study, but only 55% believe they will live longer than their parents or other family members. Two-thirds (67%) fear inheriting the same health issues as their parents. The truth is that research shows only about 25% of how long we live is determined by our genes.

Healthy longevity, therefore, is indeed within our control.

How to increase longevity

You can proactively integrate habits into your daily life that can optimize your health span. Here are my tips.

  • Talk openly with your primary care doctor. Nearly three-quarters of Americans rely on their primary care physician (PCP) to help track or manage their health, according to the survey. However, less than half talk to their doctors about the factors that are proven to affect longevity, including stress, sleep, aerobic exercise, depression and drinking habits. Your PCP should be your go-to for advice on what is best for you. 
  • Invest in your health as you do your finances. More than half of Americans say they invest more in the longevity of their finances than their health, our study finds. Whether your investment comes in the form of a gym membership, a health app, counseling or an MDVIP physician, any resources and time devoted to your well-being make a difference.
  • Make happiness and social support priorities. Two-thirds of survey respondents were spot-on when they say optimistic people live longer. Scientific evidence shows that social engagement, continuing education, happiness and optimism make significant contributions to improving your health span.

I often advise my patients to start with simple, achievable health goals that we work on together throughout the year. Your doctor is an important partner on your journey toward longevity.

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