There is a palpable freshness to the calendar new year, almost as if there is a second chance at life. In some ways, when engaging in regular sauna bathing as a lifestyle choice, you create an opportunity to create a ‘second’ chance at life – or at least dramatically improve the overall quality of health, and even potentially extend life in quantifiable terms.
Many studies that involve sauna bathing refer to the term ‘all cause mortality’, which is an odd phrase because no singular activity can eliminate chances of all causations for death, and even the reduction of possible causes of mortality is really a question of statistics, and does not necessarily tell a very personal story.
If you have been using a sauna or have been exposed to mainstream discussions regarding longevity, health, and wellness, you have probably heard experts say things like ‘saunas can influence the reduction of all cause mortality’, or some similar combination of verbiage. This article will go over the meaning of ‘all cause mortality’ as it is used in clinical settings, as well as what it does not encapsulate at a more personal level. Furthermore, based on the data collected over thousands of studies, we will look at some of the major biomarkers that are known to have shown improvement as a result of regular sauna bathing while under the watchful eye of researchers.
What Does All Cause Mortality Mean?
Just as it sounds or reads, ‘all cause mortality’ literally means death due to any cause, however, the term is used primarily in medical or clinical settings to discuss ‘preventable’ and/or ‘premature’ causes of death such as disease, or lifestyle behaviors such as smoking. The term is used specifically for statistical analysis and does not include accidents, ‘acts of God’, or human action to deliberately harm oneself or another. (1)
The expression ‘all cause mortality’ was popularized by the anti-smoking cigarettes/tobacco campaign and has stuck around to address any lifestyle or behavioral choices that are controllable, or are among the leading causes of death for a particular population or demographic.
For instance, a report from the recent publication Tobacco Induced Diseases states: “…’smoking was associated with a significantly increased risk of all-cause mortality.’ In other words, smoking cigarettes increases the risk of dying prematurely due to cancer, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, or any other cause.”
All-cause mortality is a clinical expression that is simply a guide to help individuals make the most informed and healthy decisions for themselves, but it does not address any existential questions, or issues of grief that may be associated with the loss of a loved one or a general fear surrounding death itself.
Clarifying this term will help you better understand a significant portion of the studies that directly relate to sauna bathing.
Sauna Use and All-Cause Mortality: Why Are Conversations About Sauna Use and All-Cause Mortality So Connected?
According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) the single leading cause of death in America is heart-related diseases. Given this fact, any activity or behavior that affects heart health in a clinically significant way will greatly reduce the chances of dying because of a heart malfunction. (3) Regular sauna use (at least 3 times per week for 20 minutes) has shown to greatly improve overall cardiovascular function in such a way that those participating in studies that use saunas regularly reduce their risk of all-cause mortality in statistically significant ways. (4)
To put this more succinctly: It has been demonstrated through research and data that individuals exposed to a certain amount of sauna use on a regular basis, greatly reduce their risk of dying from a heart disease pre-maturely.
A very famous study published by the National Library of Medicine that followed over 2000 Finnish men over the course of 20 years concluded the following:
“Increased frequency of sauna bathing is associated with a reduced risk of SCD (Sudden Cardiac Death), CHD (Coronary Heart Disease), CVD (Cardiovascular Disease), and all-cause mortality.” (4)
This particular study has caught the attention of many researchers, scientists, as well anyone looking to improve their healthspan, if not their longevity as well. This study is also largely responsible for the connection between the expression ‘all-cause mortality’ and sauna bathing.
The reduction of all-cause mortality in relation to sauna use is also prominent in many media streams and outlets, because the same study demonstrated that individuals who used a sauna more often had fewer expressions of heart disease such as SCD (Sickle Cell Disease), CHD (Coronary Heart Disease), CVD (Cardiovascular Disease). (4)
It appears that, based on many studies, that there is an inverse correlation between the more a person uses a sauna, and the less likely they are to die of a heart related condition. (4)
There are of course precautions that must be taken if sauna use occurs regularly (generally defined as more than 3 times per week). For example, proper hydration and nutrition are a key component of any sauna protocol, and each individual is unique with regard to what works best for them.
To summarize the findings and data outlined above – The leading cause of death in America is heart related disease. Saunas have been scientifically shown via a multitude of studies to reduce heart disease. Therefore, all-cause mortality is reduced as sauna use is introduced in a regular, ongoing way into an individual’s lifestyle.
Studies Have Shown the Inextricable Link Between Heart Disease Reduction and Regular Sauna Use: How and Why Sauna Use Affects All-Cause Mortality
If you would like to read further research regarding heart health we have included a few excellent resources for you to review. Each of these resources will also help to explain why ‘reduction of all-cause mortality’ is a phrase often used in professional conversations about saunas.
- Association between sauna bathing and fatal cardiovascular and all-cause mortality events
- Sauna use associated with reduced risk of cardiac, all-cause mortality
- Inflammation, sauna bathing, and all-cause mortality in middle-aged and older Finnish men: a cohort study
- Joint associations of sauna bathing and cardiorespiratory fitness on cardiovascular and all-cause mortality risk: a long-term prospective cohort study
These are just a few studies that dive deeply into the effects of regular sauna bathing on heart health and the statistical reduction of all-cause mortality. Regular sauna use does, in fact, have wide sweeping positive effects on human health in many other areas that may not directly impact statistical analysis of leading causes of death.
What Sauna Protocol Should You Follow To Reduce All-Cause Mortality
One thing that has become abundantly clear as a result of extensive research into the effects of sauna use on cardiovascular, or heart health, is that the more you sauna (within reason), the healthier your heart will be.
Which sauna protocol you embark on will vary depending on your individual needs and what particular health challenges you may be facing. When it comes to medical statistics that institutions such as the CDC or the National Institute of Health are looking for, they define regular sauna use as a minimum of 3 times per week for 20 minutes reduces all cause mortality. (4)
When it comes to the question of ‘all-cause mortality’ there is no one answer or solution, however, hopefully by now you understand why sauna use and ‘all-cause mortality’ are often mentioned in the same conversations.
As always, if you are unsure about starting a sauna protocol, check in with your medical provider or cardiologist to make sure that it is safe for you. In addition, if you do plan on beginning a sauna protocol, make sure to start off slowly with lots of breaks in between sessions, and stay well hydrated!
- Hok Lim K, Ling Cheong Y, Li Lim H, et al. Assessment of association between smoking and all-cause mortality among Malaysian adult population: Findings from a retrospective cohort study. Tob Induc Dis. 2022 May;20(1):50. doi:10.18332/tid/147656