People who live to 100 have these 5 things in common

When theorizing the correlates associated with longevity, our imagination rarely goes beyond dietary and lifestyle factors. 

Each poses a huge impact on health in their own right, but aging gracefully is not achieved by any singular factor. If you’ve ever met a centenarian, you were likely surprised to learn of some of the alleged conditions that enabled them to defy human life expectancy in the United States. Up until very recently research has been somewhat limited. 

“A survival analysis of reaching centenarian age for older adults aged 75 years and above was performed using Washington State mortality data from 2011−2015,” the authors of a new study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health report. This study examined the association of several social and environmental factors on the likelihood of reaching centenarian age for older adults in Washington State.”

The new paper identified several elements that support a long healthy life. Some were to be expected. Higher socioeconomic status, and a higher percent of the working age population in a community,  for instance were positively associated with reaching centenarian age.

But some of the factors documented in the new paper  either contracted traditional wisdom, like being widowed, divorced/separated, or never married all being positively correlated to long life compared to participants who were in committed relationships. 

The remaining elements posited were unanticipated.  Increased neighborhood walkability and diversity  and  lower education level were also  consistent features of Washington residents who lived to see 100 and beyond.

“These findings indicate that mixed-age communities are very beneficial for everyone involved,” says Bhardwaj. “They also support the big push in growing urban centers toward making streets more walkable, which makes exercise more accessible to older adults and makes it easier for them to access medical care and grocery stores.”

The aforementioned findings followed a review of 145,000 Washingtonians who had passed away after reaching the age of 75 between 2011 and 2015.

The in-depth analysis included each participant’s place of residence, age, gender, race, and education level.

These data sets were broken down into further subsets to adjust for an individuals access to transit, their poverty level, their access to primary care, walkability, air pollution, green space levels, and rural-urban status. 

After drafting a short-list composed of  the elements most instructive of longevity, the authors added each item to a new assessment titled, “The Survival Analysis.”

 Although being caucasian and female were identified as compelling determinants in regards to centenarian status, diverse communities enjoyed a wealth of positive outcomes.  

Collectively, Washingtonians  that lived the longest were single, socio-economically secure individuals in populated communities who did not receive higher education..

The world was home to nearly half a million centenarians in 2015, and this number is expected to increase to around 3.7 million by 2050. In 2014, an estimated 72,197 centenarians were alive in 2014, up 43.6% since 2000. In recent years, studies on the factors influencing survival to 100 years have increased dramatically. However, several gaps in our knowledge persist regarding the demographic, environmental, and social contributors to becoming a centenarian,” the authors conclude.

“This study demonstrated that several social and environmental factors were associated with becoming a centenarian in Washington State based on mortality data from 2011−2015 for individuals over 75. These factors included neighborhood walkability, education level, marital status, sex, socioeconomic status, and the percent of the population that was of working age. More research into this important subject is required.”

CW Headley is a reporter for the Ladders and can be reached at