In an effort to convince people to make healthier life decisions, researcher David Spiegelhalter, of the University of Cambridge, has developed a way of analysing all our habits — good and bad — into what he calls “microlives.”
These figures give the amount of time lost or gained by an activity or action, such as smoking, drinking, or eating fruits and veggies.
Each microlife is equal to a half hour of life expectancy, as a way to communicate what are called “chronic risks” — aka the results of your bad habits.
“People tend to dismiss effects that are perceived to lie in the distant future. As author Kingsley Amis said, ‘No pleasure is worth giving up for the sake of two more years in a geriatric home at Weston-super-Mare,'” Spiegelhalter writes in the paper, published today, Dec. 17, in BMJ, a journal of the British Medical Association. “But the loss of one year over 45 years is 1/45th, which pro-rated is roughly one week a year or half an hour per day.”
Here are some microlife equivalents for everyday habits, from the paper (these are based over a lifetime habit):
- Smoking 15-24 cigarettes per day = minus 5 hours of life (-10 microlives) per day
- Drinking one drink = 30 extra minutes of life (+1 microlife)
- BUT… Any further drinks cost you 15 minutes (-0.5 microlives) each.
- Being 11 pounds overweight (5 kilograms) = a loss of 30 minutes of life (-1 microlife) per day.
- 2 hours of watching TV = (-1 microlife)
- 3 ounces of red meat = a tasty way to cost yourself 30 minutes of life (-1 microlife)
- Eating 5 servings of fruit and vegetables = 2 hours of lifespan extension (+4 microlives)
- Drinking 2 to 3 cups of coffee = gets you an extra half hour of life (+1 microlife)
- Every day you get 20 minutes of moderate exercise = 1 extra hour of life (+2 microlives)
- BUT… Every 40 minutes thereafter = only 30 minutes (+1 microlife)
- Taking a cholesterol drug known as a statin = 30 extra minutes of life (+1 microlife) per day
- Being male = Two hours less of life (-4 microlives)
My question is: If I eat a little over one serving of fruit every 2 hours I’m lazying around watching TV, does that make me come out microlife-even? (Sadly, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t work that way.)