Not Flossing and 6 Other Unexpected Things That May Take Years Off Your Life

by Carina Wolff

Many of us just want to live a long and healthy life, and we try to engage in good habits to help us achieve this. However, we may unknowingly be participating in activities that might shorten our lifespans — turns out, there's a number of unexpected things that might take years off your life. Most of us know that sitting too long, eating unhealthy food, and drinking and smoking can increase our risk of disease, but there are plenty of other seemingly innocent habits that can play a role in our longevity as well.

"Your habits and self-discipline are everything when it comes to longevity," dermatologist Dr. Anna Guanche tells Bustle. "People who have discipline, exercise, eat in moderation, wear sunscreen, go to the doctor, don't smoke or drink excessively, have a consistent sleep-wake cycle, avoid high-risk behaviors, follow the advice of their doctor and take medicines regularly, take vitamins, drink plenty of water, avoid excessive salt intake, manage stress and on and on seem to do much better and age more slowly."

It sounds like a lot, but if you want to try to extend your life, you can start by cutting out habits that have the opposite effect — and they're not always obvious. Here are seven unexpected things that might take years off of your life, according to experts.


Watching TV For Too Long

We all enjoy a good streaming binge here and there, but make this a daily habit, and you could be taking years off your life. Watching six hours or more of TV per day could shorten life expectancy by nearly five years, according to research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. So make sure TV time is interspersed with active time.


Changing Sleep Schedules

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

Too little sleep — and too much sleep — have clear links to shorter lifespan, but an inconsistent sleep schedule can have a negative affect as well. Going to bed and waking up at different times every day can take years off your life. One study from the University of Pittsburgh found that disruption in circadian rhythm can increase metabolic risk factors for obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. "It is best to have a consistent sleep-wake cycle for optimal performance," says Guanche.


Not Taking Care Of Your Teeth

Most people tend to think that bad dental habits just affect their teeth, but it can have some negative effects on your overall wellness as well. Not flossing or taking care of your dental health can increase your risk of gum disease, which can in turn increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, according to multiple studies. "The mouth is the entry point to the body, not just through the digestive system but via tiny micro injuries to the thin skin of the oral mucus," says Dr. Guanche. "It turns out that the blood of patients with cardiovascular disease has higher bacteria than healthy controls." So try to get yourself on a regular dental routine, and be sure to see your dentist twice per year.


Not Working

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Most people aren't thrilled about having to work all the time, but not having a job can actually affect your longevity. Being unemployed can increase your risk of premature death by 63 percent, according to research from McGill University. Having a job not only helps you afford better healthcare for yourself, but it provides a sense of purpose and community, which could help lower stress and mitigate the negative health effects of isolation and anxiety.


Having A Long Commute

A long daily commute can have a negative effect on life expectancy, according to a study from Umeå University in Sweden. Spending too much time in the car or on other public transportation has the same negative health effects as sitting and can also increase stress, both of which can affect longevity. While biking to work every day may not be feasible for everyone, alternating your commute with more active options could be a good idea.


Fear Of Death

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Ironically, an intense fear of death can increase your risk of mortality. A 2008 study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that an intense fear of death can lead to a three to five times increase in the risk of cardiovascular ailments, likely due to the negative health effects of stress.


Taking Sleeping Pills

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

Although adequate sleep is important for a long life, taking sleeping pills regularly can make you 4.6 times more likely to die earlier than people who do not take sleeping pills. The higher the dose, the higher the risk, according to the study done at Jackson Hole Centre for Preventive Medicine. This effect is due to the dangerous chemicals found in sleeping pills, including benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and sedatives.

While avoiding some of these habits completely may not be possible for some, keep them in mind when you take your health into account.