Men's health * 50+ health * Healthy living

Bad habits can cost you 10 years

risk factors can cost you 10 years Smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are main risk factors

A major study of nearly 20,000 British men has revealed that bad habits such as smoking and eating too much fat can reduce life expectancy by between 10 and 15 years.

As reported in the British Medical Journal, the study followed a group of civil servants from 1967 to 2008. At the start of the survey 42% were smokers, 39% had high blood pressure and 51% had high cholesterol. In 1997 the 8,000 surviving participants were re-surveyed to determine their current lifestyles.

The study found that those with all three of the risk factors had life expectancy at 50 that was 10 years less than those without any of the risk factors - 23.7 versus 33.3. The high risk group could expect to live until they were on average 73, whereas the low risk group could expect to live until they were 83.

This difference increased to 15 years when the top 5% at risk were compared with the bottom 5%.

Smoking caused a 6 year reduction in life expectancy - i.e. non-smokers on average lived 6 years longer than smokers regardless of other risk factors.

High blood pressure alone accounted for just over a 5 year reduction in life expectancy. High cholesterol on its own accounts for a 1 year reduction.

The civil service level of employment as measured by pay grade showed that there was a more than 5 year difference in survival rate between the lowest and the highest. Diabetes and related conditions were shown to produce a 3.6 year reduction.

The reported 10 year reduction in life expectancy was predicted for those who reported all three factors at the start of the study, even if they subsequently altered their lifestyle by, for instance, quitting smoking.

Full details of the study are available here.

This article was published on Fri 18 September 2009

Image © Bojan Stepancic -

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