Want to live longer? Leave the house

Want to live longer? Leave the house

Regularly getting out of the house may increase the lifespan of older adults, according to research from Israel reported in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Researchers followed Jerusalem Longitudinal Study participants in their 70s, 80s and 90s and found the frequency that they left the house predicted the likelihood they would make it to the next age milestone.

Lead study author Dr. Jeremy Jacobs of Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center in Jerusalem and his colleagues analyzed data on 3,375 adults at ages 70, 78, 85 and 90. Based on their answers about how often they left the house, participants were grouped into three categories:

  • Frequently: Six-seven days a week
  • Often: Two-five days a week
  • Rarely: Once a week or less

Those who left the house frequently, regardless of age, were significantly more likely to make it to the next age milestone.

For those who were aged 78:

  • 71 percent who left the house frequently lived to age 85
  • 67 percent of those who left the house often were alive at 85
  • Only 43 percent of those who left the house rarely made it to age 85.

For those who were tracked beginning at age 90, 64 percent of the frequently individuals, 56 percent of the often and 38 percent of the rarely made it to 95.

The study participants did include those with medical and mobility issues such as chronic pain, diabetes, vision or hearing impairment, heart disease and kidney disease.

“This is not surprising data,” says geriatric medicine specialist Dr. William D. Rhoades with Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill. “I would presume the participants who left the house frequently also got the most exercise and were the most social,” said Dr. Rhoades.

“There is a large amount of data on elderly patients showing the benefits of social contact for both physical and mental health,” says Dr. Rhoades.

“As one ages, social isolation often increases, and physical activity decreases, so making the effort to stay active is an important choice to help prevent or lessen health issues that can develop or worsen with age such as arthritis, heart disease, diabetes and dementia.”

The results of the Jerusalem Longitudinal Study back up other research, such as that done by bestselling author and National Geographic Fellow Dan Buettner, who has studied the habits of people who live in the blue zones, five places in the world where a disproportionately high number of residents live to 100, and from a study done at Brigham Young University that suggests social relationships lead to longer and more fulfilled lives.

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  1. MMM. The above study and the conclusion the author of the article appears to draw seems to make perfect sense to anyone reading it unless one asks…. Is this correlation or causaition? Could it be that elders who don’t leave the house are less fit and healthy in the first place than the elders who leave the house often or frequently? That the rarely outside elders stay inside because they are so sick and disabled that it would require a great deal of planning and extra help (oxygen, an available helper, etc) to go outside? A more correct conclusion might be that sicker elders of any age have a higher mortality rate than healthier elders. But from what we are told about the study we don’t know how sick the ones that stayed at home were. Yes, there is a certainly a correlation between how often elders go outside and how long they live but only a study that paired seniors of like age, disability and frequency of leaving their home and then tracked them to see if one group survived longer than the other would show a causation that getting out of your house more frequently increases one’s odds of survival. Correlation? Causation? A useful question to ask of any scientific study when reading the results.

About the Author

Kate Eller
Kate Eller

Kate Eller was a regional director of public affairs and marketing operations for Advocate Health Care. She enjoys road trips, dogs, minimalism, yoga, hiking, and “urban hiking.”