These 3 Countries Have the Longest Life Expectancies
Life expectancy has improved dramatically throughout the world in the last 250 years. Science and technology have played a large part in this increase. However, there are also other factors that affect how long we live, including marital status, socioeconomic status, education, lifestyle, ethnicity, and gender.
According to the World Health Organization, the average life expectancy at birth in 2016 was 72.0 years. Diving deeper, we observe that the average healthy life expectancy—which can be defined as the average number of years lived in good health–was 63.3 years.1
Interestingly, a handful of countries experience average life expectancies that are well above these averages. The characteristics of these countries can shed light on some things we can all do to live longer.
One of the best travel destinations in the world is also near the top of the list for life expectancy. Spaniards live an average of 83.1 years, and 73.8 of those years are spent in what is considered good health. The secret to the longevity of Spanish citizens may just be their Mediterranean diet. Rich in vegetables and healthy fats such as fish and olive oil, this diet is especially beneficial for cardiovascular health.2
But it’s not all about the food. Spaniards also have a laid-back lifestyle that includes a long lunch and daily afternoon nap called a siesta. They also enjoy their nightlife, often partying every night and waking up later in the morning. Perhaps due to the way they live, Spanish people are known as a warm and generous people.
Much of Spain enjoys a pleasant climate all year round as well. The country boasts some of the world’s best beaches, and their beach season extends from Spring into late Fall. The World Health Organization even recommends living in Spain, saying that it is as “near a perfect environment as it is possible to obtain.”3
Checking in at number 2 in the world, citizens of Switzerland can expect to live 83.3 years, with 73.5 of those years in good health. These robust averages can be attributed to Switzerland’s high standard of living and solid healthcare. Switzerland spends the second most on health care after the United States, and was ranked as the 6th best country in terms of healthcare process, access, administrative efficiency, equity, and outcomes.4
Other factors that may account for Switzerland’s high ranking are their strong sense of community, active lifestyles, work-life balance, and quality of air. We also shouldn’t overlook the Swiss diet, which is typically rich in home-grown dairy products such as cheese and yogurt.
Additionally, the Swiss are the largest consumers of chocolate in the world. Much of what they consume is dark chocolate, which is high in antioxidants and offers numerous health benefits.
As impressive as the life expectancy in Spain and Switzerland are, Japan has these countries beat by about a year. The average Japanese citizen lives 84.1 years, with 74.8 years of good health. The gap is even wider for women, who average an amazing 87.1 years!
Like the Spanish, the Japanese diet is likely a big reason for their longevity. Not only do they eat a lot of fresh fish and vegetables, but people in Japan also consume a substantial amount of fermented foods. And along with food, the Japanese also love their green tea, which has been linked to lower mortality rates.5
According to a study published in the Japanese Journal of Population, other reasons for Japan’s long life expectancy include rapid economic growth, genetics, and a traditional health culture that promotes exercise and personal hygiene. Furthermore, the Japanese have a strong group orientation, which has been identified as an important factor in well-being.6
What about other countries?
Along with Japan and several European countries, Canada, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand also boast high life expectancy rates. Surprisingly, Singapore has the highest healthy life expectancy in the world at 76.2 years. On the other end of the spectrum are the less developed countries of Africa, which have an average life span in the 50s or 60s.
In the United States, life expectancy is 78.5 years, and healthy life expectancy is 68.5 years. Despite spending the most on health care, life expectancy only increased 1.6 years in the US from 2000 to 2016—the lowest rate among the top 50 countries.
As highlighted in this list, many factors affect life expectancy. While you can’t change your genetics and probably can’t up and move to a country on this list, there are many things you can do to ensure that you live as long and as healthy a life as possible. These include:
- Getting a college degree
- Having a strong social group
- Being active
- Eating healthy
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Avoiding smoking
- Getting enough sleep
- Having a positive attitude
When it comes to enhancing your wellness and longevity, seeing a holistic health professional is a good start. Better yet, visit a professional that offers ZYTO biocommunication scanning to help you make the best decisions for your wellness.
1. “Life expectancy.” World Health Organization. Who.int.
2. Geisler, Benjamin P. “Cardiovascular Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet Are Driven By Stroke Reduction and Possibly by Decreased Atrial Fibrillation Incidence.” The American Journal of Medicine 129, no. 1 (2016): e11.
3. “Top 10 Reasons.” Spain on Show. Spainonshow.com.
4. Schneider, E.C., D.O. Sarnak, D. Squires, A. Shah, & M.M. Doty. “Mirror, Mirror 2017: International Comparison Reflects Flaws and Opportunities for Better U.S. Health Care.” The Commonwealth Fund. Commonwealthfund.org.
5. Kuriyama, S., T. Shimazu, K. Ohmori, et al. “Green Tea Consumption and Mortality Due to Cardiovascular Disease, Cancer, and All Causes in Japan.” JAMA 296, no. 10 (2006): 1255-1265.
6. Horiuchi, Shiro. “Major Causes of Rapid Longevity Extension in Postwar Japan.” The Japanese Journal of Population 9, No. 1 (2011): 162-171.