A few years ago, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health released a study anointing the top five healthy habits associated with a longer life. As far as health tips go, we have to say: There isn’t a ton on the list that will surprise you. It includes a healthy diet, regular exercise, no smoking, avoiding excess alcohol, and maintaining a healthy body weight.

But is living longer really all that simple? The truth is, there are a ton of activities, hobbies, and behaviors out there that secretly influence your life expectancy, and many of them will leave you totally surprised. Curious to know more, read on for some unlikely things that could potentially affect your lifespan for better or worse.

Having an overactive mind.

This is another especially surprising one. It’s been shown time and time again that keeping one’s mind active and engaged as much as possible is a great way to stay sharp and promote overall longevity. “Excessive neural activity” in the brain is linked to a shorter expected lifespan.

Keeping active in mind and body

However, suppressing or quieting that extra neural activity can help undo this effect. It’s hard to argue that keeping the mind moving in old age isn’t advantageous, but it goes to show that there’s a happy medium somewhere in between. If an individual’s thoughts are bouncing around their head constantly in an aggressive fashion, it isn’t an ideal situation.

Having Children

Given all the sleep loss and the stress associated with raising children, you’d be forgiven for thinking that becoming a parent would abbreviate your life. Well, not so true.

As a matter of fact, a recent research project reports that by age 60, fathers have a two-year (and mothers have 1.5 year) life expectancy advantage over childless couples. Consider it an added boost that parents will have the luxury of relying on their children for support and care in advanced age.

Living the Urban life

World class dining, museums, art, and a thriving nightlife—there is a whole lot to like about living in a city. But if you’re a city dweller, it would be advisable for you to carve out at least a few weekends to spend in a rural environment. The well-documented dangers of smog, long-term exposure to “urban noise pollution” is now linked to a shortened lifespan.

A study from a few years back reports that living in a noisy urban area may increase the risk of a serious stroke. More recently, a new study found that women who live in noisier environments may have double the risk of early death.

Flossing your teeth.

If you need some extra motivation to break out the dental floss, remember that flossing regularly has been shown to promote a longer lifespan, as studies have shown that forgoing flossing puts you at an increased risk of gum disease and tooth loss.


What does that have to do with longevity? Well, believe it or not, gum disease has been linked to a number of far more life-threatening conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and kidney failure.

Reading habits

Reading isn’t nearly as common a hobby as it used to be, and is there any wonder why? We all have so many entertainment options at any given moment—streaming services, podcasts, video games etc. Reading a good old-fashioned book may not be as exciting as Twitter or Instagram for many, but it could add a few years to your life.

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