The vital variables for how long you’re likely to live

Even a few small changes could make a big difference to how healthy you are

Nobody’s perfect. We all have weaknesses. Good intentions only go so far. I’m not expecting anyone to completely change their lifestyle as a result of reading this book. But even a few small changes here or there could make a big difference to how healthy you are and how long you’re likely to live.

In terms of longevity, you can make a reasonable guess about what to expect. The table below shows the latest figures from Britain’s Office of National Statistics for average lifespans in the UK (rounded up or down to the nearest whole year). As you can see, when you’re born you could expect to live to 79 if you’re male, and 83 if you’re female. These figures stay much the same until you reach the age of 35-40. Then they start going up: because you’ve managed to survive that far, your chances of having a longer life increase. If you actually make it to the average age of death, you can then expect a further nine years if you’re a man, or eight years if you’re a woman. Even when you get to the age of 100, you can still expect on average a couple more years on earth.

You can then adjust your predicted life expectancy based on your personal health or lifestyle. There are – of course – lots of variables, and they will differ depending on how old you are right now. But here’s what happens when you apply some of these factors to the prospects for a 40-year-old woman:

Smoking If you're a heavy smoker or you've smoked reasonably heavily throughout your adult life, deduct 10 years. (Obviously this would be less if you smoke less, but it's still pretty frightening.)


Alcohol If you're a heavy drinker (defined as drinking over 21 units a week), take off 8 years.

Exercise If you take lots of exercise on a regular basis, you can add 4 years.

Cardiovascular disease If this was the cause of death for a close relative who died before they were 50, deduct 2 years. If that person was over 50, deduct 1 year.

Genes If both your parents lived to over 75, add 4 years.

Weight If you're obese, deduct 6 years. If you're morbidly obese, deduct 9 years.

Diet If you eat the recommended five portions a day of fruit or vegetables, add 2 years.

Relationship If you're happily married or in a similarly stable relationship, add 2 years. If you have an active social life with a good network of friends, add 4 years.

Mood If you're a happy and optimistic person, add 2 years. If you would describe yourself as unhappy or depressed, deduct 2 years -

SunLife -

My Key Man Insurance -

Live Well to 101 by Dawn Harper is published by Headline Home, and is out now