A new study has shown that spending too much time not moving and being sedentary, along with a lack of sleep, can lead to a premature death. While both practices are slightly damaging, when combined, they have a multiplier effect that makes an early death much more likely.
The study, which was posted in the health journal PLOS Medicine, studied six different behaviors in order to see their effects on mortality rates. Smoking was the deadliest of the behaviors, as smokers were 90% more likely to die during the study than non-smokers.
Meanwhile, although heavy alcohol consumption did not have much of an impact on mortality on its own, heavy drinking combined with smoking was found to triple the risk of death at an early age. When a lack of sleep was added to this, the risk of early death was five times greater than average. However, a lack of sleep on its own only played a small role in affecting mortality rates.
The study focused on more than 231,000 Australians, a small number of whom died during the study. It was the death rates that were used as the key statistic. Participants in the study answered questions about their smoking history, eating and drinking habits, exercise routines, sedentary time and sleep duration. During the three year period of the study, more than 15,000 participants died. The participants were at least 45 years old at the time of the study.
Upon starting the study, 7.2% of the participants were smokers, 19.1% drank heavily (having at least 14 drinks per week), 17.2% had an improper diet, 22.9% did not exercise enough, 25% spent at least 7 hours sitting per day and 23.1% got too little or too much sleep.
A total of 31.2% of the participants did not engage in any of these behaviors, and 36.7% said that they were only affected by one behavior. Additionally, 21.4% of the participants said that they were involved in two of the practices, 8.1% confessed to three, 2.1% had four, 0.4% reported five and 0.04% engaged in all six practices.
Other than excessive alcohol consumption, each of the behaviors showed at least a small increased risk of dying during the study. Smoking was the most lethal, followed by lacking exercise. Those engaging in only one of the six behaviors were 27% more likely to die during the study than people engaging in none of the behaviors.
From there, the risks greatly increased. People engaging in five behaviors had a 4.61 greater likelihood of dying during the study. And those who engaged in all six behaviors were 5.38 times more likely to die.
However, one flaw with the study was that it was self-reporting. It’s possible that the volunteers may have been dishonest about their behavior. Therefore, the results likely underestimate the true effects of the risk factors.
Nevertheless, it’s another example of how unhealthy behaviors lead to a shortened life.