The Humorless Twit Says “Study This” | Summer 2010

Scientist conducting a study

Scientist conducting a study

Every time a new “study” is reported in the news, you can bet your bottom dollar that another “study” contradicting it will come out shortly.

Every so often you’ll hear (or read or see) on the news about some new study on something or other released by some entity, most likely an entity you’ve never heard of before. I laugh when I see such news stories because invariably, some time later, we’ll hear about yet another study contradicting the first study. And so it goes.

Most recently, the news had on a story about a study that noted sleeping too little can shorten your life (by the way, for those of you who recall, I have a now one-year-old son I wrote about for last summer’s issue and as I write this, I had a measly three hours of sleep last night [which might explain this column…]).

That got me to thinking about all the other studies I’ve heard about in the past that claim if you engage in behavior A, your life will be shortened by X years (or Y percent). So I decided out of sheer boredom curiosity to see which of these supposedly life-shortening behaviors I take part in, and by how long my life will be shortened.

I found a few. Here they are:

– A study by Australian researchers found that for each hour a day you watch the boob tube, you increase your chances of dying from cardiovascular disease by 18 percent (for death by all causes it was 11 percent).

Eating red meat also shortens your life span (I couldn’t find by how much).

– A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that children who experience six or more traumatic events during childhood live 19 years less than others (traumatic events were defined as abuse of various kinds and household dysfunction).

Four specific bad habits (Lord knows I have a lot more than four) can shorten your life by 12 years: smoking, drinking too much, inactivity and a bad diet. I won’t tell you which ones I do and which ones I don’t do, but let’s just say I’m in danger of losing six years of my life from this factor alone.

Being fat at 40 (I’m already past that stage) can shorten your life by three years, according to The Annals of Internal Medicine.

– I already mentioned that sleeping too little can cause you to go to sleep permanently at an earlier age. But sleeping too much—nine hours or more—is also supposedly dangerous: it increases your chances of an early death by 30 percent (ironically, this study was published by the same journal that published the “too little sleep causes early death” study mentioned before…)!

– Researchers in Toronto found that every hour you spend driving cuts 20 minutes from your life (thank goodness I only worked as a courier for one semester in college). No word on “extra bonus” minutes for the stress of driving in South Florida, though.

Bingeing (on food, presumably) followed by crash dieting (the so-called “yo-yo” effect) can cut your life by a whopping 25%!

Taking vitamin supplements can also reduce your lifespan; how much depends on which specific vitamin(s) you take.

I crunched some numbers to see how it all added up for me. And after taking a long nap, then downing a bacon double cheeseburger and a fistful of vitamin supplements while watching TV in my car and washing it all down with a triple vodka on the rocks, followed by a nice cigar, I came to a conclusion: based on all my bad habits and the amount of time by which each one can shorten your life, I never should have been born.

Which, if you’ve read this far, you probably wished were true.

NOTE: We originally credited the Journal of the American Medical Association with the study that noted being fat at 40 can shorten your life by three years. This study was actually published in The Annals of Internal Medicine. We regret the error.