Leaving the house regularly linked to longevity in older adults, study

For older people, getting out of the house regularly may contribute to a longer life - and the effect is independent of medical problems or mobility issues, according to new research from Israel.

For study participants in their 70s, 80s and 90s, the frequency with which they left the house predicted how likely they were to make it to the next age milestone, researchers report in Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

?The simple act of getting out of the house every day propels people into engagement with the world,? said lead author Dr. Jeremy Jacobs of Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center in Jerusalem in a phone interview.

?We saw similar benefits that you?d expect from treating blood pressure or cholesterol with medicine,? Jacobs said. ?Social factors are important in the process of aging.?

Jacobs and colleagues analyzed data on 3,375 adults at ages 70, 78, 85 and 90 who were participating in the Jerusalem Longitudinal Study.

Based on their responses to questions about how often they left the house, participants were grouped into three categories: frequently (six or seven days per week), often (two to five times per week) or rarely (once a week or less).

People who left the house frequently at any of the ages examined were significantly more likely to live to the next age group. For example, among people who left the house frequently, often or rarely at age 78, 71 percent, 67 percent and 43 percent, respectively, survived to age 85. Among people who left the house frequently, often or rarely at age 90, 64 percent, 56 percent and 38 percent, respectively, made it to 95.

At all ages, people who left home less frequently tended to be male, less educated and to have higher rates of loneliness, financial difficulties, poor health, fatigue, poor sleep, less physical activity, bladder and bowel problems, history of falling in the last year, fear of falling, visual and hearing impairments, chronic pain and frailty.

The link between leaving the house and longevity, however, remained after the researchers accounted for medical or mobility issues such as chronic pain, vision or hearing impairment, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and kidney disease.

?That?s quite exciting. There?s something about interacting with the world outside that helps,? Jacobs said.

The study did not examine the effect on participants of leaving the house. It also didn?t look at environmental factors that might foster or prevent going out.

?Studies show that if you create walkways that are friendly for walking, people start walking,? he said. ?In neighborhoods with older adults, walkways with benches could encourage them to get out of the house and be social.?

Researchers are interested in finding ways to encourage adults to leave their home more and to develop systems that help them do that, said Dawn Mackey of Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, who wasn?t involved in the study.

?The wellbeing of our older adults is of paramount importance for public health and economic viability,? she said. ?Going out of the house is an important way to maintain mobility and social engagement and ward off loneliness.?


?It may be helpful for older adults and their caregivers to make plans to go out of the house more often,? she told Reuters Health by email. ?And try to build up to going out of the house every day.?

They could plan these outings with these questions: When will it work best for me to leave the house? Where do I want to go? Is there someone to go out with or to meet when I am out? What are my options if the weather is bad or if I?m not feeling well one day?