Do you want to live longer? Go play chess!
Physical exercise is healthy, so cyclists and other athletes live longer than inactive people. You already knew that. But you might not have known that mind sport also has a life-prolonging effect. In 2018, Australian researchers at the University of Melbourne published an epidemiological study in PLoS One, showing that chess grandmasters live 4 years longer than normal.
The Australians gathered information about the life of 1208 chess grandmasters from 28 countries. They compared this data with data on the life course of the average resident from the home countries of the chess grand masters.
The researchers obtained the same data from another source, but from 15,157 Olympic medal winners. It was already known that top athletes live a few years longer than average people.
The figure shows the life expectancy of the chess grand masters and the Olympic medal winners compared to the life expectancy of the inhabitants of their home country. The researchers found no statistically significant differences between the life expectancy of these two groups.
When the chess grand masters were 30 years old, they still had an average of 53.6 years ahead. For their countrymen that was on average 49.5 years. That saves a little more than 4 years.
"There may be potential direct health benefits of chess expertise", the researchers think aloud. "There is evidence suggesting that playing chess can reduce the risk of dementia, as well as physically alter the structure of the brain."
"It is also possible that attaining the exalted Grandmaster title may in itself increase life expectancy through psychological payoffs, which follows a body of literature on the connection between longevity and 'outstanding achievement'. Hence, when it comes to predicting longevity both fitness of mind and muscle appear to be important."
"Another causal argument on the effect of developing chess expertise on survival relates to socioeconomic mechanisms. Becoming a chess grandmaster may provide an economic and social boost, which has been strongly linked to increased life expectancy."
"Not only does the game of life continue after the checkmate, but excelling in mind sports like chess means one is likely to play the game for longer", summarize the Australians.
PLoS One. 2018 May 3;13(5):e0196938.
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