"Want a long life? Prioritize time with friends"


For 100-year-old men in Italy and Costa Rica the key to a long life is quiet quitting — and always making time for happy hour

By Hilary Brueck


  • Men in Sardinia make it past 100 years old with stunning regularity.
  • The traditional work of shepherding goats and sheep on the mountainside may be key to their longevity.
  • Sardinian men also prioritize happy hour and naps, and avoid chronic stress.


Biohacker bros and millionaires hoping to extend their lifespan and enjoy more time on Earth are consistently toying with novel ways to maximize productivity and, essentially, cheat death.

The tech exec and venture capitalist Bryan Johnson has a strict daily eating routine that ends at 11 a.m., and he even once tried injecting some of his son's blood to infuse himself with youth (that didn't work). Other longevity-seekers are popping pills such as metformin and rapamycin or putting their faith in supplements such as NMN.

But in areas of the world where men already live beyond 100 with stunning regularity, a big key to living longer, healthier lives seems to be organically managing stress and taking time to live in the moment. Instead of maximizing productivity, men who actually crack 100 prioritize happy hour with their friends.

Italian mountain men have unusually high odds of living to 100

In Sardinia, men accidentally figured out something unique about longevity long ago. The island is home to the highest concentration of male centenarians on the planet. (In the US, 100-year-old women outnumber men by a factor of almost six to one, but in Sardinia, the ratio is more like one to one.)

Men's work is one of several interwoven factors that make Sardinia one of the world's five Blue Zones, a longevity hot spot.

Sardinians live in steep, stairwell-dotted towns where everyday life is like a gentle but consistent StairMaster workout. Traditionally, Sardinian men were shepherds, tending to their flocks on the mountainside, work which required a significant number of steps.

"They spend time with their animals, they're up in the hills walking, they take naps and by happy hour, they're usually back in their villages sharing a glass of wine with their friends," Dan Buettner, an author and longevity expert, said in the forthcoming Netflix docuseries "Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones," premiering on August 30.

Perhaps the original quiet quitters, these men consistently end their workday on time and head off to check in with their people afterward, laughing and teasing each other over a glass or two of their regional, antioxidant-rich vino called Cannonau.

"It's not that these shepherds here don't have any stress. It's just that they seem to have not a lot of chronic stress," Buettner, who also has a forthcoming how-to book about Blue Zones' secrets for living longer, said. "Men in Sardinia work, but they don't appear to be especially stressed out at work."

Managing stress and connecting with people is a tried and true longevity recipe

Chronic stress is a driver of many of the diseases that are associated with aging and can lead to premature death. The glucose spikes and inflammation associated with our body's stress response can, over time, lead to more diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity.

But, if we can overcome our daily stressors and find ways to navigate issues like lost sheep or sick members of our herd, we keep stress in check.

"This sense of active coping, where you can resolve the problems that you are given, is a very important part of mental health, cognitive longevity, and stress resilience," Dr. Mithu Storoni, a neuro-ophthalmologist featured in the docuseries, said.

Along Costa Rica's Nicoya Peninsula, another longevity hot spot highlighted in the docuseries, men abide by similar ideas about balancing work and stress.

"I work from 6 to 10," 86-year-old Juan Carrillo told Buettner. Carrillo's often toiling with a hand ax or machete, chopping logs for firewood, working up a sweat. The work is intense but relatively brief. "Now, with my old age, I think that you have to rest," he said.

In the afternoon, Carrillo makes time for leisure and connection.

"I like to go out and treat myself," he said. Some days that means going out to the bar and dancing, shaking his hips and enjoying a cold beer with friends.

"In Nicoya, just like all the other Blue Zones, people would never do a couple hours of work when they could be enjoying their family, or taking a siesta, or interacting with their friends," Buettner said. "They slow down to make time for things that really matter to them."

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