A new study by the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel finds a connection between the longevity of men in Israel and army service. Not only does military service keep one fit but the study shows that serving in the army even adds an additional three years to the lives of men.

In 2013, life expectancy for men in Israel was 81 years. According to data from the World Health Organization, the average life expectancy for a man in other advanced countries was 77.7 years and the world average was 68.8 years in the same year.

Prof. Alex Weinreb, a principal researcher at the Taub Center, set out to examine the reasons for this high life expectancy. He and other researchers looked at data from 133 countries. They found that one of the central variables was mandatory military service – and that it adds three years to the lives of men.

Compulsory army service is not the only reason for longevity, of course, but there is evidence supporting its positive influence on public health.

The researchers say that according to data from the “Global Disease Burden” project, in Israel, there is a relatively low mortality rate from diseases that are influenced by physical exercise, like heart disease (cardiovascular and cerebrovascular) and certain types of cancer.

To prove their idea, they showed how Arab Israelis –who rarely serve in the military – have higher rates of diagnosis of heart and vascular diseases than among the Jewish population, according to Ministry of Health data.

Moreover, the gap in life expectancy between men and women, in Israel, is just three years whereas in the 34 OECD countries, women live an average of 5.5 years more than men.

“Even if a contribution to public health is not a goal of compulsory military service, it has important bearing on future policy decisions. It is possible to influence health through investment in institutions that are not directly related to health care, and, in Israel, the army is one of the agencies with a particular status that allows it to impact public health,” says Weinreb.

The complete study on life expectancy of men in Israel will appear in the State of the Nation Report 2016 which will be published at the end of the month.