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How Many Years of Life Do I Lose From Not Dealing with Stress?

You’re gonna want to take a few deep breaths for this

I’ve resigned myself to the fact that stress will eventually murder me. It’s an almighty beast, one that therapy, meditation and walking around the block can only repel for so long. In fact, just thinking about it stresses me out. But if I could at least prepare for my inevitable end, I’d appreciate that. 

Well, what do you know — researchers in Finland have managed to calculate how much shorter a person’s lifespan is when they’re as stressed as I am.

By examining data collected over 20 years, they discovered that 30-year-old men can expect their lives to be 2.8 years shorter due to stress, whereas 30-year-old women only have their lives shortened by 2.3 years, which comes down to their generally healthier lifestyles. 

As you get older, those numbers stay the same. But younger people are less likely to die early if they manage to get their stress under control, which sounds like a very stressful endeavor.

Interestingly, the study also found that how a person perceives their stress impacts the amount of life it deletes. For example, if a person believes that their stress level is similar to what other people experience, their lifespan increases. However, believing you have more or less stress than average reduces your life expectancy.

For what it’s worth, stress itself isn’t what kills you. It’s the chronic release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline that eventually result in associated ailments, such heart disease, cancer and weakened immune function. It’s also the unhealthy ways many of us choose to cope with stress — smoking, drinking and chowing down on KFC chicken buckets instead of going to the gym — that contribute to our untimely demise.

But now that I know stress plans on taking 24,528 hours (1,471,680 minutes) from me, I’m less inclined to let it happen. That’s a lot of time I could use to scroll through Instagram, after all.

I guess that means for the rest of my life you can catch me reducing my stress by screaming in pillows, pooping, gobbling vitamins, persuading myself that money doesn’t matter, wearing a high-tech eye mask, doing puzzles, fleeing climate change, pretending meth fish don’t exist — and of course, going to therapy, meditating and walking around the block.

Let’s hope it works.