Skip to main content

Harmful Habits That Can Lower Your Life Expectancy

6 min read

By Olivia DiPede

Medically Reviewed by Patty Weasler, RN

Everyone has habits and routines that they perform on a daily basis. The key with these rituals is to evaluate whether they are positively contributing to your life or not. Some habits may be more obvious than others on how they affect your life, and some you may not even be aware are harming you.

Your habits are ultimately what create your lifestyle and play a large factor in whether you live a long, healthy life. Follow along as we outline a few harmful habits you should be aware of that can actually lower your life expectancy.

Stressful Lifestyle

Stress can have a major effect on your body, even if you’re not aware of it. While everyday stresses are common, it’s important to evaluate your lifestyle if you live in a constant state of stress, anxiety or worry. This elevated state raises cortisol in your body, which is a hormone that secretes when an individual feels threatened or stressed.

VeryWellMind explains that high levels of cortisol has been linked to lowering your immune system and affecting heart health. It’s important to have proactive habits to manage stress levels such as deep breathing, going for a walk, exercising regularly, meditating or listening to calming music.


Eating Processed Foods

Another area you can improve your life expectancy is by evaluating your diet. Eating too many processed foods can lead to a variety of health problems down the line such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

It’s not necessary to cut out processed foods completely if this isn’t realistic for you, but ensure that you’re eating healthy more often than not. Fill your diet with plenty of leafy greens, juicy fruits, nuts, lean meats and whole grains.


Excessive Blue Light

We are surrounded by more blue light than ever and it’s important to be aware of how this can affect your body and lifestyle. Blue light is emitted by electronic gadgets such as phones, computers and TVs and can affect your body in multiple ways such as straining your eyes, affecting your sleep and mental health. Some studies have even linked excessive blue light to cancer, diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

Try to set boundaries with how much time you spend on your devices to contribute to a healthier lifestyle. You could try to read before bed instead of scrolling on your phone, or opt for a long walk in the evening rather than watching a TV show.



Smoking can have detrimental effects on your health and can affect nearly every organ. It can lead to a long list of health issues including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, stroke, bronchitis, emphysema, and more.

Even if you’re not a smoker yourself, spending excessive time around someone who smokes can increase your risk of asthma, heart disease, lung cancer, or a stroke. If you or someone you live with is a smoker, it might be time to talk to your doctor about how to quit.

Lack of Proper Sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep and maintaining a consistent sleep schedule is key to living a long, healthy life. Not getting enough sleep may put you in a bad mood during the day, but it can also lead to even more severe health issues if it becomes a routine.

A study from the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School found that “sleeping five hours or less per night increased mortality risk from all causes by roughly 15 percent.” It can also lead to weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, a weakened immune system, and mood disorders.


Sitting Too Much

Sitting too much has become a major issue in society and is a risk factor to a shorter lifespan. Many people work in office environments where it’s hard to avoid sitting for extended periods of time, but it’s important to be aware of this issue and try to incorporate movement as often as possible.

Sitting for too long can slow your metabolism, lead to weight gain and has been linked to a number of health conditions such as heart disease. Try to incorporate movement into your daily routine as often as possible whether that’s going for a walk, practicing yoga, lifting weights or jogging on a treadmill.

Shutterstock/Roman Samborskyi

Lack of Social Interaction

Feeling connected to others and interacting socially is important for longevity and keeping your mind healthy. It doesn’t matter if you have a huge group of friends or even how often you see them, but it’s important that you have a few people in your life that you feel deeply connected to.

Spending too much time alone can actually lead to high blood pressure, depression, brain issues and inflammation. If you’re struggling to find a way to connect, try joining a club in something you’re interested in to meet new people or give a family member or friend a call.


Eating Excessive Red Meat

The food you eat can either fight or fuel disease. It’s important to be aware of healthy options that are contributing positively to your overall health. One food you should try to avoid eating excessively is red meat since it has been linked to increased risk for disease and could potentially shorten your lifespan.

According to a study from Harvard Medical School, “a higher intake of red meat was associated with a significantly elevated risk of total, cardiovascular disease, and cancer mortality.” You don’t have to cut out red meat completely if this doesn’t suit your lifestyle, but it’s good to be aware of how often you consume it and if it could be limited.

Shutterstock/Evgeny Karandaev

Focussing on the Negative

Having a positive, uplifting mindset is so important to longevity and living a happy life. It’s totally normal to have bad days or challenging periods in your life, but it’s important to evaluate your mindset and focus on the positive. According to a study from the Mayo Clinic, people who were classified as optimists tended to live longer than those described as pessimists.

Practicing gratitude is a great way to stay more mindful and focus on the positive. This could be a simple task you do in your head each morning or you could purchase a gratitude journal to make this more of a formal practice to encourage a positive mindset.



Taking care of your skin is so important. If you’re still going to tanning beds or spending afternoons in the sun without sunscreen, it may be time to reconsider your habits. Tanning damages your skin cells and speeds up visible signs of aging, but worst of all, it can lead to skin cancer.

It’s best to avoid tanning altogether, but if you do plan on spending an afternoon in the sun, it’s important to practice sun safety. Be sure to apply sunscreen and reapply throughout the day. There are many ways to give your skin a healthy glow these days without damage and purchasing a sunless tanning product is a great option.


Overconsumption of Alcohol

How often do you consume an alcoholic beverage each week? Excessive drinking can lead to weight gain, kidney disease, liver disease, digestive issues, heart problems, bone damage, and even some cancers. If you don’t want to cut out drinking altogether, it can be effective to simply be aware of how much you’re drinking and put in effort to consume alcohol in moderation.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, women should consume no more than three drinks in one day or seven per week. For men, they should limit themselves to no more than four drinks a day and 14 per week.


Skipping Flossing

Do you floss daily? If not, it might be time to start. Even if you brush your teeth twice a day, plaque can still settle between your teeth and lead to cavities and even worse health issues. An excessive amount of plaque has been linked to gum disease, which can lead to stroke, heart disease, and diabetes.

Flossing your teeth daily is a simple, low-cost way to contribute positively to your oral hygiene and overall health, which can help you live a long and happy life.



Patty is a freelance health writer and nurse (BSN, CCRN). She has worked as a critical care nurse for over 10 years and loves educating people about their health. When she's not working, Patty enjoys any outdoor activity that she can do with her husband and three kids.

Your Health


What Do Your Blood Test Results Mean? A Toxicologist Explains the Basics of How to Interpret Them
By Brad Reisfeld Your Health

What Do Your Blood Test Results Mean? A Toxicologist Explains the Basics of How to Interpret Them

Your blood serves numerous roles to maintain your health. To carry out these functions, blood contains a multitude of components, including red blood cells that transport oxygen, nutrients and hormones; white blood cells that remove waste products and support the immune system; plasma that regulates temperature; and platelets that help with clotting. Within the blood […]

Read More about What Do Your Blood Test Results Mean? A Toxicologist Explains the Basics of How to Interpret Them

5 min read

Dietary Supplements and Protein Powders Fall Under a ‘Wild West’ of Unregulated Products That Necessitate Caveats And Caution
By Emily Hemendinger and Katie Suleta Your Health

Dietary Supplements and Protein Powders Fall Under a ‘Wild West’ of Unregulated Products That Necessitate Caveats And Caution

Dietary supplements are a big business. The industry made almost US$39 billion in revenue in 2022, and with very little regulation and oversight, it stands to keep growing. The marketing of dietary supplements has been quite effective, with 77% of Americans reporting feeling that the supplement industry is trustworthy. The idea of taking your health […]

Read More about Dietary Supplements and Protein Powders Fall Under a ‘Wild West’ of Unregulated Products That Necessitate Caveats And Caution

5 min read

Strep A Explainer: Why Invasive Cases Are Increasing, How It Spreads and What Symptoms to Look For
By John McCormick and Juan Manuel Diaz Your Health

Strep A Explainer: Why Invasive Cases Are Increasing, How It Spreads and What Symptoms to Look For

A jump in the number of people with serious illness caused by group A Streptococcus — also referred to as Streptococcus pyogenes or Strep A — has made headlines recently. There has also been a higher than usual number of deaths from group A Streptococcus infections, including in children, leaving people with questions about why […]

Read More about Strep A Explainer: Why Invasive Cases Are Increasing, How It Spreads and What Symptoms to Look For

4 min read