updated 4/7/2011 3:40:01 PM ET 2011-04-07T19:40:01

Retail therapy does more than soothe the soul — it could also be a sign of long life for elderly people, according to a new study.

Elderly people who shop every day are 27 percent less likely to die over a 10-year period than those who shop once a week, the study said. (The study was limited to Taiwanese, so the findings may not apply to all groups of people.)

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Researchers noted that shopping was only associated with a decreased risk of death in the study, meaning it's possible that healthy elderly people are more capable of going out shopping than unhealthy elderly people who don't have long to live, researchers said.

But it's also possible that shopping itself could improve health by ensuring a good supply of food for a healthy diet, ensuring exercise by walking around, and providing social interaction and companionship in the form of shopping buddies, the study said.

"Shopping captures several dimensions of personal well-being, health and security as well as contributing to the community’s cohesiveness and economy and may represent or actually confer increased longevity," researchers wrote in the study.

Taiwanese researchers examined the shopping habits of 1,850 Taiwanese people age 65 and older who were part of the Elderly Nutrition and Health Survey.

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Participants were asked how often they went shopping, with options ranging from "never" to "every day," and they were also asked about their employment status, lifestyle factors and the prevalence of long-term conditions.

The researchers then tracked how long each of the participants lived by linking individuals to national death registration data between 1999 and 2008.

Nearly two-thirds of study participants were under the age of 75 and just over half were men. Most had a healthy lifestyle and three out of four were financially self-sufficient; almost two-thirds (60 percent) had up to two long-term conditions, according to the study.

Researchers found that those who went shopping more than once a week tended to be male and at the younger end of the age spectrum. They also tended to be smokers and drinkers, have better physical and mental health, take regular exercise and have a network of dinner companions, the study said.

Researchers also found that those who shopped daily were 27 percent less likely to die over the study period, compared with those who said they shopped once a week. Male daily shoppers were 28 percent less likely to die, and female daily shoppers were 23 percent less likely to die.

The study was published today (April 6) in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Pass it on: Elderly people who shop every day have a lower risk of dying over a 10-year period than those who don't shop as often.

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