On Your Life Expectancy: Chronic Behaviors and Longevity Returns

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Everyone says that smoking can drastically reduce your life expectancy by introducing all sorts of complications, but the question is: how much of your life are you sacrificing, stick by stick? Know the answer to this question and for many other chronic behaviors by reading on!

TJ Palanca https://www.twitter.com/tjpalanca
HOW LONG WILL YOU LIVE? - Certain life choices and behaviors have corresponding increases or decreases to your life expectancy. Let's measure the tradeoffs! Photo: <a href='http://www.flickr.com/photos/uncalno/8538709738/sizes/o/in/photolist-e1x7Vq-e1MS38-8MBnLE-9WzeuW-96WykC-9fAmSe-auFdwu-arEiYB-ec3DHB-jot3jf-7KKV2D-9RbbJu-8GTsat-bbFkRH-9af5Ht-7U3KDk-7zMAV4-7CNcLm-fb3Zwj-dBvcrN-aakx9m-7T2Hnk-7Va8gG-7Pt7Ue-8XHun3-ammjb3-b8rU6P-8R8SQQ-bcANPe-ai89o5-9MBzFJ-81TBBc-cLgsbs-egxmif-boJEtt-b3Ctfg-bBm3pL-8XHuCS-9WwoSB-aq1zDr-aq4hbs-b8AtQc-dR7Pi5/' target='_blank'>Uncalno/Flickr</a>,<a href='http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en' target='_blank'> CC BY 2.0</a>)

Figure 1: HOW LONG WILL YOU LIVE? - Certain life choices and behaviors have corresponding increases or decreases to your life expectancy. Let’s measure the tradeoffs! Photo: Uncalno/Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

Let’s say you’re a smoker, and someone tells you to stop smoking because it’s shortening your life. You’d probably decline by saying that you derive some sort of benefit from it - whether it be physiological, emotional, or social. This is why a lot of anti-smoking activists try to make that benefit look insignificant compared to the costs, through warning labels, graphic illustrations of smoking complications, and advertisements - but these strategies don’t necessarily work that well.

I think part of the reason is because the costs can’t necessarily be weighed against the benefits. How do you measure the high of a cigarette against the cost of complications in some far, distant future? But what if you could actually pinpoint how much of your life you are sacrificing? Well, you can then decide for yourself whether the tradeoff is worth it or not. If one stick reduces life by a day, everyone would probably quit immediately. Conversely, if it were 10 seconds, many might just decide to continue the habit.

Tempting tradeoffs

Fortunately, researchers have been working on determining just how much time, in minutes, you are losing with each puff, and they’ve also done this for various chronic life choices, such as drinking, diet, coffee, TV, among others. That way, we can calculate exactly how much time one is sacrificing by making certain life choices. We summarize the results in this chart:

It’s a load of information, but here are some of the highlights:

Know the data!

I’d like to point out some things that you might need to understand about the data:

So the next time you take a shot of tequila, think about the benefits! The next shots (and there will be next shots) will probably erode all of that, anyway.

Thanks for reading! If you found this post interesting, I’d appreciate a like, share, tweet, or +1. Share your thoughts or request for data in the comments or through the contact form.


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For attribution, please cite this work as

Palanca (2014, Jan. 26). TJ Palanca: On Your Life Expectancy: Chronic Behaviors and Longevity Returns. Retrieved from https://www.tjpalanca.com/posts/2014-01-26-pick-your-poison/

BibTeX citation

  author = {Palanca, TJ},
  title = {TJ Palanca: On Your Life Expectancy: Chronic Behaviors and Longevity Returns},
  url = {https://www.tjpalanca.com/posts/2014-01-26-pick-your-poison/},
  year = {2014}