Generally living longer and with a better quality of life is considered a good thing, if not for ourselves then for our family and friends who care about us. Some factors that influence human longevity are outside our control or only currently exist in a research laboratory; others factors we can control but vary in their impact and effectiveness.

What interventions (preventative or curative) applied by individuals have been proven to increase human longevity, ranked by their effectiveness?

The interventions can be ranked by the ratio of Time Spent vs. Time Gained or Money Spent vs Time Gained. A centuries' worth of data driven medicine and longitudinal studies should provide some answer as to what works and what doesn't.

For purposes of this question, please exclude future interventions that have not yet or never been tested on a sizable portion of population.

Some of the biggest improvements in collective aggregate life expectancy in a society have been communal solutions such as elimination of pathogens. As these either exist or don't exist for a given community - I'd like to narrow the scope to interventions applied or chosen by individuals (such what they personally do or don't do). That is, interventions that supplement communal improvements.


1 Answer 1


Time Spent vs. Time Gained is not a concept I'm familiar with, because much of the time, the gain was an entire lifetime. I don't know that any studies have averaged it out for entire populations.

Four generations ago, the average Swede had the same probability of dying as a hunter-gatherer, but improvements in our living conditions through medicine, better sanitation and clean drinking water (considered "environmental" changes) decreased mortality rates to modern levels in just 100 years, researchers found.

The most significant advances which promoted health and longevity include (as mentioned above):

  • improved sanitation.
  • improved water quality.
  • vaccines.
  • antibiotics.
  • improved living conditions.
  • improved nutrition.

Since you posted a comment indicating a change in your question, I'll stop here.

  • $\begingroup$ My bad. I'll need to narrow the question to mean individual interventions that supplement overarching communal interventions. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 6:00
  • $\begingroup$ Time Spent vs Time Gained is a way to attempt to remove nation-specific costing from an assessment of effectiveness. For instance, 1 hour of Intervention X every day adds 10 years if applied from Age Y. But then it removes a whole class of interventions that are not time based (excluding a Labor Theory of Value). In practice, studies that separate out communal interventions from individual interventions may or may not be common, depending on who's driving the report or research grant. Typically government studies aim for bang-for-buck on interventions they can directly apply (i.e. communal). $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 6:13
  • $\begingroup$ Woah! That is totally out of my league! Thanks for clearing that up before I got too deeply into my answer. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 6:15
  • $\begingroup$ +1. Your answer was very useful in helping me clarify what I meant by longevity interventions. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 6:16

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