Over the past few years, several major media outlets have been talking about the increased longevity of Adventists compared to the populations they live among (CNN, BBC, DW, NBC, CBS, ABC, CBN, National Geographic, Time, Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, The Atlantic, etc.).
The first indications about the longevity of Adventists that attracted the attention of specialists and the media come from the Adventist Health Study 1 (AHS-1), coordinated by a team of researchers from Loma Linda University in California. AHS-1 is the largest Adventist study to date that has been completed. Currently, there is another study underway, the Adventist Health Study 2 (AHS-2), even larger than AHS-1, which focuses on a broader cohort of Adventist subjects in the US and Canada. It is worth noting that the results provided by the AHS-1 study are quite similar to the findings of two other studies that were conducted in Europe (Norway and the Netherlands). In other words, there is enough evidence to conclude that the Adventist population has a higher life expectancy than the rest of the population.
According to AHS-1 results, Adventist men in California live an average of 7.3 years longer than the average Californian man. As for Adventist women, they live an average of 4.4 years longer than the average Californian woman.
Strictly speaking, of those Adventists in California who are also vegetarians, vegetarian Adventist men live an average of 9.5 years longer than the average Californian man, while vegetarian Adventist women have an average advantage of 6.1 years.
The results of the AHS-1 study led Gary E. Fraser, a researcher involved in AHS-1 and, until recently, the principal investigator of AHS-2, to come to a memorable conclusion: “To our knowledge, the life expectancies of California Adventist men and women are higher than those of any other well-described natural population. Japanese individuals have often been described as the longest-lived population, but they do not survive as long as California Adventists.”
A summary of the main characteristics of the Adventist lifestyle in California can help us better understand under what conditions one might benefit from such an extension of life expectancy.
Loma Linda researchers say that all Adventists in the AHS-1 study who could expect an average life extension of 9.5 years for men and 6.1 years for women had five factors in common (if one or more of these factors were missing, longevity decreased proportionally):
- They didn’t smoke;
- They weighed less than the typical Californian;
- They exercised more often than the typical Californian;
- They were vegetarians;
- They ate nuts (oilseeds in general) more often than the typical Californian.
The Adventist lifestyle balances the life expectancy differences between men and women. The healthy habits listed above add more years to the lives of men, who, on average, in the general population, have a shorter life expectancy than women.
Vegetarian Adventist men live an average of 83.4 years (73.9 years + 9.5 years = 83.4 years). Vegetarian Adventist women live to 85.6 years on average (79.5 years + 6.1 years = 85.6 years). Adventist women can therefore anticipate fewer years of widowhood if their husband is an Adventist.
The Adventist Health Study 1 (AHS-1) was conducted on 34,192 white, non-Hispanic Adventist men and women in California. According to the study, Adventist men in California had a life expectancy at age 30 that was 7.3 years longer than the life expectancy of Californian men at age 30 (81.2 years versus 73,9 years). For white, non-Hispanic Adventist women in California, life expectancy at age 30 was 4.4 years higher than life expectancy at age 30 for other Californian women (83.9 years vs. 79.5 years).
- “Findings for Longevity,” Loma Linda University Health, https://adventisthealthstudy.org/studies/AHS-1/findings-longevity.
- Fraser, Gary E. and David J. Shavlik, “Ten Years of Life: Is It a Matter of Choice?”, in Archives of Internal Medicine, vol. 161, no. 13, p. 1645-1652, July 9, 2001, accessed on February 12 2023, at https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/648593.
Norel Iacob is the editor-in-chief of Signs of the Times Romania and ST Network.