The conversations of life

Think ‘good genes’ are the secret to living longer? Think again, research says


A new study has revealed a longer lifespan is less about genetics – and more about having a healthy lifestyle.

The research by genetics company Ancestry and Google-owned company Calico looked at data from over 54 million family trees and the birth and death details of more than 400 million people.

The findings?

Unlike past research which assumed between 15 per cent and 30 per cent of our lifespan was determined by our genes, our DNA actually accounts for just seven per cent.

So, what will actually help us to live longer?

Healthy living trumps the family tree

Another recent study showed people who live longer followed five key lifestyle habits:

  • Not smoking.
  • Sticking to a healthy body weight.
  • Doing at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a day.
  • Keeping alcohol intake to one to two drinks a day.
  • Eating a healthy diet.

And as we discussed here, friends are critical to health and wellbeing as we age.

Surprisingly, we do still transfer this longevity onto the next generation according to the researchers – because we tend to choose partners whose attitudes and attributes are the same as ours, or “assortative mating” as they call it (very romantic).

In short, if you like hitting the gym and chowing down on your six veg a day, there’s a good chance your partner does too.

As a result, you’ll usually live the same amount of time and have children who do too.

Just don’t expect to be breaking any Guinness World Records if you both like sitting on the couch with a packet of Tim Tams.

With a background in nursing, Annie has spent over 20 years working in the health industry, including the coordination of medical support for international TV productions and major stadium events, plus education campaigns with a number of national health organisations. In recent years, she has also taken time out of the workforce to be a full-time carer, giving her first-hand experience of the challenges and rewards of this role.

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