Patience could increase your longevity

Credit: CC0 Public Domain.

In a new study from the University of Gothenburg, researchers found patient people are at a lower risk of dying before the age of 65 and suffer, on average, from fewer hospitalizations and diagnoses during their adult lives than more impatient individuals.

They analyzed a unique data material where thousands of Swedes have been followed from the age of 13 and throughout their lives.

What would you prefer: Getting SEK 100 now or SEK 1,000 in five years?

This was one of many questions that 13,000 youths aged 12–13 were asked in 1966, in a unique survey where the respondents were followed through life to this day.

Your answer to the question says something about your time preferences, that is, how you value the present in relation to the future.

There is really no bad or good alternative, it is just a matter of preferences—do you prefer to get something now or to wait for a bigger reward later.

The results show that the patient youths, who chose to receive SEK 1,000 in five years, have between a 17 and 21% greater chance of surviving their 65th birthday than their more impatient classmates.

They are also admitted to hospitals less frequently, receive fewer diagnoses as adults, and are to a lesser extent diagnosed with so-called lifestyle diseases.

One explanation for the results is that people who choose to receive SEK 1,000 in five years have a low discount rate, that is they believe that immediate and future payments are about equally valuable, which makes them more likely to invest in better future health.

On the other hand, a person with a high discount rate thinks that immediate outcomes are much more valuable than future ones.

There are previous research results where time preferences play a role in such things as smoking or obesity, but this type of long-term study over a lifetime is unique.

The team says to tackle certain public health problems, one may need to take into account that impatient individuals are more exposed to health risks and create systems that focus on costs and rewards today instead of far into the future.

One example is the labels on tobacco packages, which are mainly about the risk of cancer—perhaps it would be better to emphasize bad breath or that it is expensive to smoke.

If you care about longevity, please read studies about dieting method that could help increase longevity, and this exercise is vital to improving longevity in older people.

For more information about wellness, please see recent studies that women’s longevity related to age at birth of last child, and results showing exercising in short bursts may be as good for longevity as doing it all at once.

The study was conducted by Lisa Norrgren et al.

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