Study Tests Alumni Health

Finds Male Harvard Graduates Live Longer by Keeping Fit

A scientific study of almost 15,000 Harvard graduates has found that men may live longer by controlling their blood pressure, quitting smoking, losing weight and becoming physically fit.

The results of the study, made public by the University last week, show that changes in behavior may extend men's life spans by between three and 10 years, according to a University statement.

The study lasted 35 years. Ralph Paffenbarger, adjunct professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health, studied men who matriculated at the College between 1916 and 1950.

Using questionnaires, they were tracked from 1962 to 1992, according to the statement.

"In 1960, we started looking around for a large group of people for whom there were plenty of lifestyle data and an easy means to contact them," Paffenbarger said in the statement. "Harvard College alumni were ideal. They may not be representative of all American males, but the effects of the lifestyle changes they make should apply to many, if not the majority of, men. I have not been successful in finding and following up an equivalent group of women."

The study found that men could add two years to their lives by increasing their walking pace from less than 10 miles a week to a brisk 15 miles-plus a week, the statement said. Men who quit smoking between the ages of 35 and 84 added between one and two years to their lives.

"The weight of evidence supports the idea that wise adjustments of behavior can extend life span by delaying or preventing heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other chronic ailments," Paffenbarger said in the statement. "Also, it seems [to be] never too late to adopt favorable habits whether you graduated from Harvard or not."