Healthspan not Lifespan

Weekly I/O#77


Prioritize enhancing healthspan, not just extending lifespan. Focus on preventive measures for physical, cognitive, and emotional health because it is better to get cancer later in life than to live longer with cancer.

Book: Outlive

People say they want to live longer. But what does the goal of living longer truly mean?

Longevity comprises two components: lifespan, how long you live, and healthspan, the time spent free from illness and disability. While lifespan is binary, whether you are dead or alive, healthspan considers the quality of physical, cognitive, and emotional health.

Interestingly, focusing on healthspan also extends lifespan. Statistical data shows that for those over 40 who don't smoke, about 80 percent of the causes of death will be cancer, cardiovascular, neurodegenerative, or metabolic diseases. We can live longer with or without a chronic disease. The data unambiguously shows that you will live longer if you can extend the time without a chronic disease rather than with a chronic disease.

In other words, it's better to get cancer later in life than to live longer with cancer. Therefore, though there's less evidence-based strategy, we should focus on preventing chronic diseases.

Moreover, emotional health is a crucial yet often overlooked aspect of health. As psychotherapist Esther Perel puts it, "Why would you want to live longer if you're so unhappy?" An infinite lifespan is worthless if lived miserably.


Want to learn 5 bite-sized cool things like this every week to understand the world better? Sign up below for my free weekly newsletter and learn together!

Weeklyio Banner