5 Myths About the Fountain of Youth

Separate fact from fiction when it comes to anti-aging.

1 / 7

Nearly every day, you hear reports about a newfound way to stay young—whether it's a miracle skin cream or the latest diet craze. But you shouldn't always believe what you read. "There's just not much evidence that any of that stuff will extend your lifespan or make you healthier," says Karen Galichon, MD, of Parham Doctors' Hospital.

We spoke with Dr. Galichon and Cecily Montgomery, MD, of Chippenham Hospital to dispel five common anti-aging misconceptions—plus get some pointers on what really works.

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

Myth#1: Spend more, look younger.

2 / 7 Myth#1: Spend more, look younger.

Reality: Want to rescue your skin after too many years of fun in the sun? Aside from a dermatology visit to ensure your skin is healthy, skin care products can help, too. But you don't need to buy Dior over a pharmacy brand. To see results, what it comes down to are the ingredients in the product, not the price tag. Dr. Montgomery recommends two must-haves: "Sunscreen, as well as retinol, are ingredients definitely known to help prevent or improve skin changes associated with prolonged sun exposure," she says. Also, if you're going to be outside for a long time, don't rely on just lotion with sunscreen; sunblock is your most effective ally at protecting your skin.

Myth #2: Get married, live longer.

3 / 7 Myth #2: Get married, live longer.

Reality: Marriage offers many benefits, like day-to-day companionship and support in your toughest times, but a huge gain in longevity isn't one of them—well, at least not for women. "It seems there's a lot out there that says men live longer if they're married," says Montgomery. The Longevity Project, a study that spans over 80 years, showed that while marriage may be great for men's health, it doesn't help women quite as much. Men in long-term marriages were likely to reach age 70, living much longer than men who were single, remarried or divorced. Married women, on the other hand, lived only slightly longer than divorced women. 

Myth #3: Be happy, live longer.

4 / 7 Myth #3: Be happy, live longer.

Reality: While being optimistic has been linked to living longer, happiness isn't the key to extending your golden years. A decade-long study published in The Lancet found that among 700,000 women in Britain, being unhappy or happy didn't make much difference in how long they lived. The researchers noted that while poor health is linked to being unhappy, it doesn't necessarily mean that unhappiness itself makes you unhealthy. But doesn't it feel better to be happy and healthy?

Myth #4: Take supplements, live longer.

5 / 7 Myth #4: Take supplements, live longer.

Reality: When it comes to vitamins and supplements, Montgomery says there's just not enough evidence to prove they help with aging. For example, while some research suggests that eating foods with omega-3 fatty acids may protect your brain, a large 2015 study showed that supplements don't seem to help. And while not a supplement, the latest pill to be crowned as an age-defying miracle is the diabetes drug called metformin. Some sources claim the drug can help you live to be 120 years old! But that's not the whole story. Research shows that people with diabetes may live longer on metformin than if they had been put on insulin or other diabetes drugs—not that metformin itself is a life elixer.

Myth #5: Work hard, die young.

6 / 7 Myth #5: Work hard, die young.

Reality: Constantly sky-high stress levels can affect everything from the size of your waistline to your risk of heart disease, which is why so many experts recommend stress-relieving techniques. But this doesn't necessarily mean working hard slashes your lifespan. In fact, being involved and committed to your job may actually boost longevity. Researchers from The Longevity Project found that hard-working, productive people tended to live longer than more easy-going people—especially if they were dedicated to things or people beyond themselves or felt useful and appreciated at work. So if you're working hard at something you truly love, keep at it!

What Matters the Most

7 / 7 What Matters the Most

So what's the secret to a longer life? It's pretty straightforward. "There's no magic involved," says Galichon. Get regular exercise (150 minutes per week of moderate intensity), eat well, keep your weight in check, get enough sleep, keep stress from getting out of hand and avoid tobacco and alcohol.

Montgomery puts prevention at the top of her list, including vaccines. "Have regular exams and get your age-appropriate screenings—I think that's the most important thing you can do for yourself," she says. 

What is your RealAge?

Continue Learning about Longevity

Reading Makes Your RealAge Younger
Reading Makes Your RealAge Younger
There’s reading…and then there’s reading while you’re doing something else! Emergency room visits from distracted walking are up 35 percent over the l...
Read More
How can taking aspirin help me live longer?
Dr. Michael Roizen, MDDr. Michael Roizen, MD
To live longer and younger, take two baby aspirins a day. These daily doses prevent gastrointest...
More Answers
Top 8 Ways to Lower Your RealAge
Top 8 Ways to Lower Your RealAgeTop 8 Ways to Lower Your RealAgeTop 8 Ways to Lower Your RealAgeTop 8 Ways to Lower Your RealAge
Find out how to live younger and feel your best.
Start Slideshow
Are We Getting Any Closer to Knowing What Causes Aging?
Are We Getting Any Closer to Knowing What Causes Aging?