The Mediterranean lifestyle was associated with a 30 percent lower risk of death

The Mediterranean lifestyle was associated with a 30 percent lower risk of death

A recent collaborative study of La Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health has found that people in the UK who follow a Mediterranean lifestyle experience a reduced risk of death from all causes and certain diseases.

The Mediterranean lifestyle, which is often praised for its health benefits, is about much more than diet. While diet is an important component, lifestyle as a whole includes a set of habits and practices that are traditionally found among people living in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.

Overall, the Mediterranean lifestyle emphasizes a diet that is high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and low in salt and added sugar. It is also focused on adequate rest, physical activity and social interaction.

Study focus

The study published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, is distinctive because it evaluates the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle outside its traditional territory. This offers insight into the adaptability of diets and their benefits, even when implemented using locally available products and in different cultural settings.

“This research shows that non-Mediterranean populations may adopt a Mediterranean diet…and adopt a Mediterranean lifestyle as a whole within their own cultural context,” said Mercedes Sotos Prieto, lead author of the study. He further added, “We are looking at lifestyle diversion and its positive effects on health.”

How the research was conducted

The research team analyzed data from 110,799 participants, aged between 40 and 75 years, from the UK Biobank group. This population-based study spanned England, Wales and Scotland.

Participants were evaluated using the Mediterranean Lifestyle Index (MEDLIFE), which evaluates the following three categories: “consumption of Mediterranean food” (intake of foods part of the Mediterranean diet such as fruits and whole grains); “Mediterranean dietary habits” (adherence to customs and practices around food, including limiting salt and drinking healthy beverages); and “physical activity, rest, and social and hospitality habits” (adherence to lifestyle habits including taking regular naps, exercising, and spending time with friends).

Each item in the three categories is then scored, with a higher total score indicating higher adherence to a Mediterranean lifestyle.

What did the experts find

Nine years after the initial data collection, the researchers reviewed the participants’ health outcomes. Their findings revealed that people with higher adherence to a Mediterranean lifestyle, as measured by the MEDLIFE score, had a 29 percent lower risk of death from all causes and a 28 percent lower risk of dying from cancer.

The results show that the category “physical activity, rest, and social habits and sociability” of the MEDLIFE index is highly influential. Adherence to these categories was associated not only with the reduction in the risk mentioned earlier, but also with a reduction in the risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

Overall, the research highlights the potential universal health benefits of the Mediterranean lifestyle, showing that the positive impact is not limited to where it originates.

More about the Mediterranean lifestyle

The Mediterranean lifestyle is a way of life that includes more than just food choices. It is a comprehensive approach that integrates various aspects of daily life and has been linked to various health benefits.


  • Whole foods: Focus on whole, unprocessed foods including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
  • Healthy fats: Olive oil is a dietary staple, and is widely used in cooking and seasoning food.
  • Lean protein: Fish and poultry are preferred over red meat. Seafood is consumed frequently, at least several times a week.
  • Dairy products: Low to moderate amounts of cheese and yogurt.
  • Wine: Consume red wine in moderation, usually with food.
  • Herbs and spices: Seasoning food with herbs and spices instead of salt.

physical activity

Regular physical activity is the cornerstone. Whether it’s through the daily grind, walking, or more structured forms of exercise, being active is an integral part of the Mediterranean lifestyle.

Social connection

Prioritizing family and community. Meals, for example, are often communal affairs where families gather.

Social engagement and having strong social networks are seen as important for mental well-being.

Rest and take a nap

In many Mediterranean countries, it is customary to take a short nap or siesta in the afternoon, especially after the midday meal. This rest time is believed to be rejuvenating and provides a break from a busy day.

Connection with nature

Gardening, farming or simply spending time outdoors are common practices. This not only provides fresh produce but also helps to ground and build a connection with nature.

Eat mindfully

Food is enjoyed and eaten without rushing. This mindfulness ensures better digestion and appreciation of flavors in food.

Lower stress levels

While perhaps not exclusive to the Mediterranean region, this lifestyle emphasizes stress reduction, whether through daily practice, mindfulness, or community connection.


Numerous studies have linked the Mediterranean lifestyle with various health benefits. This includes a reduced risk of heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and even depression. The combination of a nutrient-rich diet, an active lifestyle, and strong social relationships seems to create a holistic approach to well-being.

The Mediterranean lifestyle is not available exclusively to those living in the Mediterranean region. The principles can be integrated into daily routines anywhere, making it the globally recognized and recommended lifestyle for health and longevity.


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