Everyday you overindulge – takes 30 minutes off your life!

Category: Blog

It may not seem like much at first but it adds up, every day you overindulge takes 30 minutes off of your life.

A study appearing in the British Medical Journal features Professor David Spiegelhalter, a statistician at the University of Cambridge, who wanted to find a simple way of communicating the impact of our behaviors on expected length of life.

He suggests using the concept of ageing faster or slower, by expressing the daily effect of lifestyle habits as “microlives” (half hours of life expectancy). A half hour of adult life expectancy can be termed a microlife as it is loosely equivalent to one millionth of life after age 35, he explains.

Using data from population studies he calculates that, averaged over a lifetime habit, a microlife can be “lost” from smoking two cigarettes, being 5 kg overweight, having a second or third alcoholic drink of the day, watching two hours of television, or eating a burger.

On the other hand, microlives can be “gained” by sticking to just one alcoholic drink a day, eating fresh fruit and vegetables, exercising, and taking statins.

Demographic factors can also be expressed in microlives. For example, being female rather than male (a gain of 4 microlives a day), being Swedish rather than Russian (a gain of 21 a day for men), and living in 2010 rather than 1910 (a gain of 15 a day).

This form of communication allows a general, non-academic audience to make rough, but fair comparisons between the sizes of chronic risks, and is based on a metaphor of “speed of ageing,” which has been effective in encouraging cessation of smoking, says Professor Spiegelhalter. “So each day of smoking 20 cigarettes (10 microlives) is as if you are rushing towards your death at 29 hours rather than 24.”

He points to several limitations and stresses that these assessments are very approximate and based on numerous assumptions. However, he says they “bring long term effects into the present and help counter temporal discounting, in which future events are considered of diminishing importance.”

In spite of the limitations, he concludes that “a reasonable idea of the comparative absolute risks associated with chronic exposures can be vividly communicated in terms of the speed at which one is living one’s life.”

He adds: “Of course, evaluation studies would be needed to quantify any effect on behaviour, but one does not need a study to conclude that people do not generally like the idea of getting older faster.” (1,2)

At the Magaziner Center for Wellness we have many programs that can help you get back that 30 minutes. Why not make a New Year’s pledge to get back YOUR Time!