Lowering your golf handicap can actually prolong your life, according to a new study by a respected international medical university.
The study shows the death rate for golfers is 40 per cent lower than for other people of the same sex, age and socioeconomic status. This corresponds to a five year increase in life expectancy. Golfers with a low handicap are the safest.
The study has just been released by the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet. This is no crackpot organisation. Each year, the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet awards the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Following this study, many golfers might want to reciprocate the favor and award the institute its own Nobel Prize for Golf.
The Institute says 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.
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 major beneficial health effects.
Professor Anders Ahlbom, who 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.”
The study does not rule out that other factors than the actual playing, such as a generally healthy lifestyle, are also behind the lower death rate observed amongst golfers. However, the researchers believe it is likely that the playing of the game in itself has a significant impact on health.
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).
Maintaining a low handicap involves playing a lot, so this supports the idea that it is largely the game itself that is good for the health, says Professor Ahlbom.
What the good professor may not be fully aware of is that lowering your golf handicap makes you want to live longer.
The report publication is helpfully titled: “Golf!! A game of life and death.”
We all knew that.