Is living environment, rather than biology, Longevity’s key?

A new study of centenarians suggests: where you live has a significant impact on whether you’ll see 100.

A study conducted by scientists at Washington State University’s Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine had concluded that the community in which you live can play a role in determining your lifespan.

Longevity.Technology: We often focus on the differences cellular intervention, or medical therapies can have on extending life, but maybe it’s time to pull the focus back and look at the differences that can be affected by changing our lifestyles.

Based on Washington State mortality data and published in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, the research team found that living in highly walkable, mixed-age communities has a positive effect on life and means the residents are more likely to reach their 100th birthday [1].

In addition, living in a community that had a higher percentage of working-age population positively correlated with reaching the centenarian age. The research also found that having a higher socioeconomic status, being female, and being white all contributed to Longevity.

New agetech projects win €21m support

Last year we reported on the 21m Euro SHAPES project (Smart and Healthy Ageing through People Engaging in supportive Systems) aims to explore interactions between people, their environments and technology to deliver advanced community living projects which help people to continue living in their own homes for longer.

The researchers studied data about the deaths of nearly 145,000 Washington residents who died at age 75 or older between 2011 and 2015, looking at age and place of residence at the time of death, as well as their sex, race, education level, and marital status.

This data was then explored in terms of a neighbourhood ‘score’ which was determined by a set of variables that included poverty level, access to transit and primary care, walkability, percentage of working-age population, rural-urban status, air pollution and green space exposure. This allowed the researchers to conduct a survival analysis, determining which residential areas and demographic factors correlated to a lower probability of dying before the age of 100.

… residing in an environment that supports healthy aging could impact your ability to beat genetic odds …



Rajan Bhardwaj, a second-year WSU medical student, says the research indicates that residing in an environment that supports healthy aging could impact your ability to beat genetic odds.

“… hereditary factors explain only 20% to 35% of an individual’s chances of reaching 100,” Bhardwaj said. “We wanted to explore the effect that environmental variables have on this instead of just individual factors such as socioeconomic status, education, social participation and things like that [2].”

Looking at the results geographically, the team observed clusters with a high likelihood of living to centenarian age in higher socioeconomic areas in urban centres and small towns across the state of Washington; these included the greater Seattle area and the Pullman region.

“These findings indicate that mixed-age communities are very beneficial for everyone involved,” said Bhardwaj. “They also support the big push in growing urban centers toward making streets more walkable, which makes exercise more accessible to older adults and makes it easier for them to access medical care and grocery stores [3].”

A multi-faceted approach is a must for anyone with a Longevity goal; after all, there is no point taking a carefully-constructed supplement regimen, if you take no exercise and smoke. In terms of rerouting our genetic satnavs, we might need to encompass not only what we put into our bodies and how we treat them, but also where we put our bodies in terms of our surroundings.


Eleanor Garth
Staff Writer and Community Manager Now a science and medicine journalist, Eleanor worked as a consultant for university spin-out companies and provided research support at Imperial College London and various London hospitals in a former life.

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