This Is Exactly How Many Years Stress Takes Off Your Life, Study Finds

Finding time to unwind could save years of your life.

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There's no doubt that stress can take a toll on your life, but now, research shows that prolonged, heavy stress can literally shave years off of it. In a recent study, researchers from the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare looked at lifestyle factors that shortened the life expectancy of 30-year-old men and found that stress could reduce a subject's lifespan by a total of 2.8 years.

According to Mayo Clinic, there's a whole host of ways stress can affect your physical health, ultimately leading to such a grim result. Headaches, muscle tension, chest pain, gastrointestinal problems, fatigue, and changes in sleep patterns are all common (and unpleasant) symptoms of prolonged stress and anxiety. The health authority warns that when left unchecked, emotional strain can trigger serious health concerns including obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and even heart attack or stroke. Viewed in that light, those everyday worries that send your stress levels soaring can take on a whole new significance.

In the Finnish study, other lifestyle factors that reduced life expectancy included more notoriously dangerous habits like smoking (5.5 years) and lack of exercise (2.4 years). For reference, having diabetes—typically considered to be a somewhat "serious" condition—reduces a male's life expectancy by an average of 5.3 years.

Female study subjects with prolonged stress saw similar effects, but had slightly better outcomes: women's lifespans were reduced by a total of 2.3 years, compared with men's 2.8 years. The researchers attributed the difference to women having overall healthier lifestyles, which could offset the effects of untamed stress.

Of course, all of us are susceptible to the tensions of daily life—especially during anxious and uncertain times like these. That's why it's essential to find ways to unwind, whatever the circumstances: it could quite literally save years of your life. And for signals that stress is wearing on your well-being, check out these 18 Silent Signs Your Stress Is Harming Your Health.

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