9 surprising things that help you live longer

Working near plants, moving to Greece, winning a Nobel Prize, and other strange ways to extend your life expectancy

Researchers have discovered that even living through a depression can increase longevity.
(Image credit: Corbis)

Living through a recession can do it, and so can living on the Greek island of Icaria. And if you put on weight, it'll help. Scientists are always finding new ways to help you extend your lifespan. Just last week, new research showed that men tend to live longer when they are married. Here's a list of unusual ways to guarantee a long life:

1. Make friends

Researchers at Brigham Young University and the University of North Carolina found that people with poor social networks (aka few friends) are 50 percent more likely to die sooner than those with "robust social ties." Having a large social circle, says the study, can make as much difference to your life expectancy as a life without smoking cigarettes.

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2. Win a Nobel prize

Researchers found that Nobel prize winners lived 1.4 years longer than nominees who didn't win. "Walking across that platform in Stockholm apparently adds about two years to a scientist's life-span," economist Andrew Oswald tells New Scientist. If you're unlikely to attract recognition from the Nobel community, then don't worry — the study suggests that social status can influence longevity, so just make sure people think highly of you.

3. Take the pill

Women who take the pill for an average of four years reduce their risk of dying from illnesses such as cancer and heart disease, according to a group of British researchers. But the study looked at women who started taking the pill in the 1960s, meaning the results may not be applicable for women taking today's drugs.

4. Move to a Greek island

Specifically, the Greek island of Icaria, where almost one in three people lives into their 90s. Researchers studying the islanders concluded that the Icarians' active lifestyle and healthy Mediterranean diets (lots of fruits, vegetables, and olive oil) helped the island maintain the highest percentage of nonagenarians on the planet. More good news? There are plenty of properties available on the island.

5. Live through a recession

It may give scant relief to those struggling to find work during the current downturn, but a University of Washington study suggests that recessions in the 20th century led to declines in mortality. Unemployed people were more likely to give up expensive vices like smoking and drinking, says the study, and less likely to die from work-related injuries or car accidents.

6. Put on a bit of weight...

Researchers at Kaiser Permanente in Portland followed over 11,000 adults over 12 years and found that those who were slightly overweight were 17 percent less likely to die during the 12-year study. "It may be that a few extra pounds actually protect older people as their health declines," David Feeny, a coauthor of the study tells CNN.

7. ...in one place in particular

Women with large rear ends are less likely to suffer heart and metabolic diseases than non-curvy ladies, says a study by Oxford University. That's apparently because fat stored in this area absorbs harmful fatty acids. "Women who have large thighs shouldn't be anxious about it," the report's author tells the New York Post.

8. Learn a foreign language

Learning a foreign tongue can help stave off Alzheimer's and other common age-related diseases, according to author Dr Andrew Weil. "You don't have to master it," he tells ABC News. But just the act of learning something new is like "running different software through the brain."

9. Work near ornamental plants

Waxy-leaved plants like English ivy and ferns soak up harmful indoor air pollutants, reducing stress levels and increasing overall health, says a study by the University of Georgia. The healthiest ornamental plant to have in your cubicle is the purple heart plant, says the study, which can be bought online for as little as $4.

Sources: Daily Telegraph, ABC News, New York Post, CNN, NPR, New Scientist

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