porträttfoto Ingmar Skoog
Photo: Emelie Asplund

New book by Ingmar Skoog arouses great interest


“70 is the new 50” has become a common phrase. The author Ingmar Skoog has now written a book (so far only in Swedish) on the subject with this very title.

Ingmar Skoog, a senior researcher in psychiatry at the University of Gothenburg’s Sahlgrenska Academy, is a busy man. There has been enormous interest in his new book, and the launch has resulted in an unusually large number of interviews and widespread coverage in the Swedish media. Alongside this, he is continuing to record Studio 65: a radio program on Radio Sweden P4 and a television program on Sveriges Television.

“Making the TV program is great fun!” says Ingmar, who turns 70 himself in February. “It’s involved me learning something completely new, and I’ve noticed that it’s given me a lot of energy. Each episode of Studio 65 has up to 100,000 viewers, and now I even get recognized in the street from time to time!”

tv studio with the three leaders of the programme
Studio 65: a radio program on Radio Sweden P4 and a television program on Sveriges Television. From left: Kattis Ahlström och Anders Palmgren och Ingmar Skoog.

He is still Director of the Centre for Ageing and Health (AgeCap), which hopes to attract the necessary funding to continue as a university-wide center of expertise. The plan is for Ingmar to hand over directorship to a next-generation ageing researcher during the coming year. However, he plans to continue working on the H70 study – which is also the basis for his new book – for a few more years.

Older has never been younger

The book is based on results from the ongoing H70 major population study, which allows researchers to compare different generations of 70-year-olds with each other. The conclusion is that older people have never been younger than they are right now. On average, today’s 70-year-olds are physically stronger and smarter, and live a more active life. Being 70 years old today is comparable to how previous generations were able to live when they were 50.

“We now live longer and generally have more healthy years. It is often said that people go through four different ages in their lives, with the fourth age being the one where age-related infirmity and diseases make us dependent on others to cope with our everyday lives. This final age is now not only a much shorter part of our lives, it has also been postponed.”

The same trend can also be seen among even older generations. Research from the H85 population study has shown that the incidence of dementia is decreasing among 85-year-olds compared to previous generations, with 85-year-olds also now generally doing better on their own.

Revolutionary societal changes

In the early 20th century, people often lived miserable lives characterized by hunger and hard work, mostly within agriculture. Ingmar notes that many of the laws that govern our work and that we now take for granted were put in place relatively late in the 20th century.

“Those who turned 70 in 1971 had lived their lives in a different society compared to the society we are used to. They left school and went to work at the age of 12 or 13. The eight-hour working day came about when they were 20, and paid holiday was introduced when they were 40. That generation was completely worn out by the time they got old.”

There are many reasons behind this positive trend. Political changes have improved people’s living conditions, not least various waves of feminist campaigns that have liberated the female half of the population. General welfare and the emergence of the welfare state provided access to better food and housing. Of course, penicillin, blood pressure medication, and other medical breakthroughs have also paved the way for better health later in life.

“These societal changes have also affected our cells and how they age. It’s obvious, really, but we don’t always make the connection.”

Advice for a long and enjoyable life

Book cover; 70 is the new 50 - in Swedish

In the book, Ingmar also provides a variety of advice for those who want to increase their chances of a long, healthy, and enjoyable life. He highlights the importance of everything in moderation – it’s important to enjoy life!

Here is some of his advice:

  • Exercise. The scientific evidence that exercise benefits our cells is extremely strong. Make sure you get both fitness and strength training. Muscles get weaker with age. The key is to build resilience against future falls with muscles and balance.
  • Think about what you eat. Follow the Mediterranean diet: vegetables, nuts, olive oil, fish, and maybe chicken. Eat less red meat. Treat yourself every now and again.
  • Give yourself the right conditions to get around seven to nine hours of sleep every night. The brain is active during sleep, which is when harmful substances are washed away, and broken memories are consolidated and repaired.
  • Meet people. Research shows that being alone is harmful, even if you don’t feel lonely yourself. Humans are pack animals that need to socialize for health reasons.
  • Stay curious. Try new things, and do the things you’ve dreamed about.
  • Check the status of your cardiovascular health. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes do not necessarily have noticeable symptoms. Attend your health checks.
  • Keep your brain active with things you enjoy, and give your brain a variety of exercise. If you only do crosswords, your brain only gets good at crosswords. Take part in cultural activities. Sing in a choir. And if you dance, you’ll also get exercise.