Golf prolongs life, Swedish study finds

Stockholm  - Golf may be a pastime sometimes criticized as "a good walk spoiled," according to a statement often attributed to US author Mark Twain, but a new Swedish study suggests it has health benefits.

Researchers at the medical university Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm suggest that golfers can expect a five-year longer life expectancy, citing that the "death rate for golfers is 40 per cent lower than for other people of the same sex, age and socioeconomic status."

The study was based on data from 300,000 Swedish golfers, corresponding to about half the country's 600,000 registered golfers.

"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," said Professor Anders Ahlbom, who led the study with Bahman Farahmand.

Other factors mean that golf, which is a low-intensity form of exercise, can be played at old age, the researchers said, noting that the benefits were likely greater for "golfers from blue-collar professions."

Furthermore, players with the lowest handicap or better players had the lowest rates, the study said.

"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," Ahlbom said.

The study "Golf - a game of life and death. Reduced mortality in Swedish golf players" was published in the May 30 issue of the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports. (dpa)