Golf can be a good investment for the health, according to a new study from the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet. The death rate for golfers is 40 per cent lower than for other people of the same sex, age and socioeconomic status, which correspond to a 5 year increase in life expectancy. Golfers with a low handicap are the safest.
The lower death rate by lower handicap suggests that part of the effect might flow from fitness of one's nervous system. Maybe more coordinated people live longer. Maybe the handicap gets worse faster for those whose nervous systems and muscles are aging more rapidly.
It is a well-known fact that exercise is good for the health, but the expected health gains of particular activities are still largely unknown. A team of researchers from Karolinska Institutet has now presented a study of the health effects of golf – a low-intensity form of exercise in which over 600,000 Swedes engage.
The study, which is published in Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, is based on data from 300,000 Swedish golfers and shows that golf has beneficial health effects. The death rate amongst golfers is 40 per cent lower than the rest of the population, which equates to an increased life expectancy of five years.
Golfing involves walking some miles. Plus, it is a social game with groups of people discussing things as they walk around the course. A cause and effect relationship seems highly plausible.
Professor Anders Ahlbom, who has led the study with Bahman Farahmand is not surprised at the result, as he believes that there are several aspects of the game that are proved to be good for the health.
"A round of golf means being outside for four or five hours, walking at a fast pace for six to seven kilometres, something which is known to be good for the health," he says. "People play golf into old age, and there are also positive social and psychological aspects to the game that can be of help."
Getting more exercise is a good idea. Engaging in stress-lowering activities is similarly a good idea. Whether you want to play golf or not getting involved in regular stress-lowering exercise will provide real benefits.
The bigger benefit for blue collar workers is interesting. I would expect blue collar workers to get more exercise in their jobs. But they also have lower status and therefore more stress. Maybe golf relieves more stress for blue collar workers?
Golf players have a lower death rate regardless of sex, age and social group. The effect is greater for golfers from blue-collar professions than for those from white-collar professions. The lowest rates are found in the group of players with the lowest handicap (i.e. the best golfers).
Does SES control for IQ differences? Smarter people live longer. Are golfers smarter than non-golfers at the same levels of SES?
Update: In the comments "Fat Man" makes a very good point: Lots of golf courses require that you use a golf cart. So you do not get the exercise. I wonder if this is more an American phenomenon. Do Swedish golfers mostly walk their courses?
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2008 May 31 12:30 PM Aging Studies|