“Warning: The following prime time television programs could shave 30 minutes off your life.” If you knew exactly how much your TV was killing you, would a disclaimer like this convince you to switch off your bad habits?
That’s the type of in-your-face message that people need in order to understand how their unhealthy ways are shortening their lives, said University of Cambridge statistician David Spiegelhalter in an article in the journal BMJ.
It’s not like we don’t already know that eating red meat or sitting too much is killing us. But death is so far away—who really cares about losing a couple of years at the end of life when a juicy steak is staring at us from our plates right now?
Unfortunately, that sort of put-off-today thinking is what keeps us stuck in our bad habits, until it’s too late. Instead, Dr. Spiegelhalter suggests presenting the risks of unhealthy living differently. Using data from other studies, he calculated that the following daily activities that he says could shave 30 minutes from your life:
- Smoking 2 cigarettes
- Drinking 2 extra glasses of alcohol
- Eating 1 hamburger
- Watching 2 hours of television
- Being 11 pounds overweight.
The good news is that each day of healthy living offsets some of those lifespan deductions:
- Drinking only 1 drink a day earns you 30 minutes of life
- Exercising 20 minutes gains you 1 hour
- Eating fresh fruits and vegetables boosts your life by 2 hours.
It may take some time before beer bottles carry a warning label about killing you, but remembering that every action affects your health could help you change your bad habits—one choice at a time.