Both Unemployment and Working Too Much Will Kill You. But Shopping Helps You Live Longer?

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A trio of new studies indicates that to live a long and healthy life, one should have a job—just one that doesn’t require exceptionally long hours. And it seems like getting out and shopping regularly seems to extend one’s life in the golden years. So long as unemployment or a stressful job hasn’t already killed you, that is.

A study about the effects of unemployment on health, led by McGill University sociology professor Eran Shor (and summed up by USA Today), utilized 40 years of data gathered from 20 million people. According to the analysis and Shor and his colleagues, being unemployed increases a person’s risk of premature death by 63%. For the sake of comparison, smoking 25 cigarettes a day increases the odds of premature death by 89%.

Shor and his colleagues suspect that not having a job is more stressful for a man nowadays, and that this stress can damage his health in several different ways:

“When a man loses his job, it still often means that the family will become poorer and suffer in various ways, which in turn can have a huge impact on a man’s health by leading to both increased smoking, drinking or eating and by reducing the availability of healthy nutrition and health care services.”

OK, so unemployment is scientifically proven to be bad for your health. Got that?

Turns out doing the opposite of being unemployment—working long hours—is also bad for your health. Another study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and summed up at Healthland and Bloomberg, finds that adults who work 11 or more hours per day had a 67% higher risk of developing heart disease compared to the average Joe or Jane working eight-hour days.

So both not working and working too much can put you in the grave earlier. But what will actually help you live a long and healthy life? Shopping?!?

The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health just published a report based on studying 1,850 elderly people (65+) living independently in Taiwan. In surveys, participants were asked how often they went shopping—anywhere from “never” to “every day.” The older folks who got out of the house regularly and went shopping every day tended to live longer. My colleagues at Healthland gave some of the details:

Men who shopped daily, further, were 28% less likely to die, compared with a 23% reduced risk for women.

Well, technically, we’re all likely to die, and shopping a lot or a little doesn’t have much impact. But the suggestion here is that shopping regularly—if, for no other reason than to get food to eat—will increase the chances you’ll die after living a longer life. These findings give the phrase “shop ’til you drop” new meaning.

To recap: Both unemployment and overemployment (so to speak) can be killers. Shopping, on the other hand, can extend your life. So go shopping—just not so much that the credit card bills will cause you stress on par with unemployment, and not so much that you’ll have to work absurdly long hours to pay off your bills.

As with so many things in life, balance is key.