When it comes to life expectancy, not all areas in the world were created equal. Depending on where an individual lives, their expected age of death can range from anywhere in the high forties to mid-eighties. Recent studies have shown there are specific reasons why certain regions have such high life expectancies while others continue to fall far behind.
Research conducted in countries such as Singapore and Spain has shown that these regions share characteristics that contribute to their incredibly high life expectancy, proving that there are ways to be proactive about enhancing the length of life around the world.
Here are five critical factors that scientists attribute to why certain regions have such high life expectancies:
1. Healthy diet
Researchers have shown that the Japanese nutrient-rich diet full of sweet potatoes and seafood contributes to their average lifespan of 83 years. South Korea, the first country expected to break 90 years in life expectancy, is home to a variety of healthy, fermented foods that promote longevity.
Even a small amount of exercise has incredible effects in improving life expectancy. Most people don’t even need a regimen to have good health—simply choosing to move more on a daily basis while going through their regular routine can make the difference. For example, in crowded Spanish cities, people often prefer biking or walking, which is part of the reason why their average lifespan is just under 83 years.
A large part of the reason why certain regions have such high life expectancies relates to a strong sense of community. Collectivist cultures that value social connections and relationships lead to healthier, happier individuals. This is especially true in East Asian cultures, specifically Japan and South Korea.
4. Low levels of stress
Stress has a strong correlation with many non-communicable health issues, such as high blood pressure or stroke. It also can take as many as sixteen years off a person’s life. However, high life expectancy countries take the effects of stress seriously and provide helpful resources. Singapore ranks at the top of the list for longevity, and for good reason—citizens have many outlets to reduce stress, including therapeutic parks and Buddhist meditation practices.
Areas with advanced medicine and doctors tend to have higher life expectancies. Singapore’s healthcare system has been described as a “miracle”, and is part of the reason why their average citizen lives to see 83 years of age.
By examining what these countries are doing right, policy makers are gaining a better understanding why certain regions have such high life expectancies and what they can do to improve life quality in their countries. Based on these facts, the approach for regions with lower life expectancies should include holistic health programs that stress relationship building and mindfulness.
– Kailey Dubinsky