In the United States, the average 65-year-old male can now expect to live to 87 and the average female to 89. Life expectancy plays a big role in life insurance. The longer you are statistically estimated to live, the cheaper your life insurance premiums will be, and this makes total sense. If you have a life insurance policy, the life insurance company will be paying out a large sum (the death benefit) when you die. The longer you live, the longer the life insurance company gets to hang onto that money.
Many factors go into estimating a person’s life expectancy. There is a fun calculator that was developed by the professors at the University of Pennsylvania that gives you an estimate of how long you might live. You can try it out here: life expectancy calculator. I apparently will be living to the age of 94… not sure what I am going to do for that long, but I guess we’ll see!
We often talk about the more common indicators of life expectancy – gender, height/weight, tobacco use, your health, and family history. These are somewhat obvious. If you smoke a pack a day, chances are you aren’t going to live as long as your neighbor who’s never touched a cigarette. Let’s go over five additional (and maybe surprising) life expectancy predictors.
1. Your Flossing Habits
It never fails. Every time you go in for a dental exam the dentist asks “How often do you floss?” Statistics from the American Dental Association show that about 40% of Americans floss daily. That means the other 60% are sheepishly responding with “Umm sometimes?” while tools are being jammed in their mouths.
In an article from the Journal of Aging Research, it was noted that brushing your teeth at night before bed, flossing daily, and visiting the dentist were significant risk factors for longevity. Never flossing increased risk by 30% compared to flossing every day. This research was conducted on elderly individuals, not people of all ages, but, in general, it seems that not only does oral health help maintain healthy teeth, but it also appears to help increase life expectancy.
2. Your Button Pushing Abilities
In the popular TV show Lost, it was thought that someone needed to push a button every 108 minutes or everyone on the island would die. They may have actually been onto something… indirectly. Research was done on the correlation of reaction time and mortality. The examiners measured reaction time based on how quickly participants could press a button after seeing a “0” displayed on a screen.
The experiment concluded that slow reaction times lead to increased risks for premature death and cardiovascular issues. So, you may want to work on your button-pushing skills if you want to live a little longer… not to mention be able to answer a question first on Jeopardy.
Maintaining high levels of body flexibility, muscle strength, power-to-body weight ratio and coordination are not only good for performing daily activities but have a favorable influence on life expectancy.
3. Your Ability to Stand Up
Wise advice sometimes comes from unlikely sources. As an example, let me quote the lyrical wordsmithing of Chumbawamba: “I get knocked down, but I get up again. You’re never going to keep me down.” It may be a good idea to practice how quickly you can, literally, get yourself up again.
The European Society of Cardiology did some tests. They discovered that the ability to sit and rise from the floor is a strong predictor of mortality. The research participants were aged between 51 and 80. Of these subjects, those who scored low numbers were nearly seven times more likely to pass away within the following six years compared to those who scored high. It was concluded that maintaining high levels of body flexibility, muscle strength, power-to-body weight ratio and coordination are not only good for performing daily activities but have a favorable influence on life expectancy.
4. Your Speed Walking Abilities
The Journal of the American Medicine Association released results from a study that evaluated the relationship between walking speed and survival. It was concluded that a faster walking speed is associated with living longer. Walking requires energy, movement control, and support. It also places demand on multiple organ systems. No signs of slowing down when walking correlates with no signs of slowing down in life.
5. Your Education
A college education indirectly influences longevity via giving one access to better jobs and higher incomes; however, in an in-depth study detailed on HealthAffairs.org, it was suggested that education may also have a direct influence on health and longevity. An additional four years of education was shown to add on as much as a decade to the average American’s life span. The research states that education applies its direct beneficial effects on health through the adoption of healthier lifestyles, better ability to cope with stress (which definitely correlates with mortality with heart disease being the leading cause of death in the U.S.), and more effective management of chronic diseases.
Living a long and happy life is the ultimate goal of many, but that doesn’t always happen. Even if you floss every day, have great button pushing fingers, can sit down and stand up with the best of them, regularly walk five paces ahead of your significant other at the store, and have your Master’s degree in physics, you could still get hit by a bus. Get life insurance to make sure your loved ones will be taken care of, even if life doesn’t go as planned.
Photo credit to: Vee
About the writer
Writer, Editor, and Co-host of Quotacy's Q&A Fridays
Natasha is the content manager and editor for Quotacy. She has been in the life insurance industry since 2010 and has been making life insurance easier to understand with her writing since 2014. When not at work, she's probably studying and working toward her Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) designation while throwing a tennis ball for her pitbull mix, Emmett, or curled up on her couch watching Netflix. If it’s football season, the Packers game will be on. Connect with her on LinkedIn.