“How long will I live” is a question few people want to know the answer to, but in some countries people may not be afraid to ask anyway because they will probably like the response. The following list is based on the latest data provided by the World Economic Forum. It’s interesting to note that the Top 10, out of 137 nations included in the study, are all in Asia or Europe. Those in the bottom 10 are all in Africa.
Hong Kong is a bit of surprise (maybe). It’s infamous for air pollution, boosted by the more than 7 million people living in close proximity. But medical treatment has gotten better and people are generally very active. Many practice martial arts, such as Tai Chi, their entire lives, which helps with longevity, according to studies. People also prefer steamed food, as opposed to fried, and drink a lot of tea. Most of the protein Chinese consume is from plant sources.
Japan is well-known for its aging population. There are more than 58,000Japanese who are older than 100, making the country the world’s leader for people who live over 80. All the credit for the longevity is given to a predominantly healthy diet, which includes a lot of fish, rice, tofu, soy, vegetables, and small portions. Interestingly, people on the small island of Okinawa actually age slower also because, according to a study, they have a higher level of sex hormones.
Italians live longer due to a reduced poverty gap that is smaller than in other countries, according to a medical journal review. The standard of living has increased for everybody, which means most people are able to afford better food. People often walk, which is one of the easiest ways to stay in shape and maintain good physical health.
Spaniards love the Mediterranean diet even though they have made some tweaks. People in the country are very family-oriented and keep strong family and social connections throughout their lives. This contributes to both happier and longer life. By 2050, more than 36 percent of the population is expected to be senior citizens, the highest proportion of any nation in Europe.
The Swiss are some of the happiest people on the planet and they also enjoy one of the most thriving economies in the world. The people are rich, the government is stable, which means little or no conflict, and the healthcare system is regarded as one of the best in the world. Switzerland doesn’t have many natural resources so it has chosen to invest in developing people’s talents. Between health, money, happiness, and, of course, chocolate, it’s hard to be chronically sick.
Everything is right in Iceland. People eat simple – lots of seafood, dairy from grass-fed cows, and locally grown produce with no pesticides. Locals swim a lot. (You would too is you had natural hot springs nearly everywhere you turn). People use them for family fun and to relax. Icelanders also spend much of their time exercising to beat seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which affects many in the winter when there is little sunlight.
People are physically active, and the weather often helps with that. Winters are not too harsh, which would prevent many from keeping up with the lifestyle. A famous paradox is that the French eat a lot of cheese but have low rates of heart disease. Researchers claim it has to do with the metabolism of cheese. Cheese reduces bad cholesterol, when compared to butter with the same fat content. A key factor in the French diet is small portions.
Singapore has often been used as an example of how to build a prosperous nation. The city-state’s economy is strong, thus its healthcare system is very efficient. Efforts put into early prevention and detection of chronic diseases, as well as close monitoring by doctors, have paid off. The people of Singapore also follow a healthy diet, eating foods rich in nutrients and antioxidants – fish, rice, and noodles.
Sweden ranks above average in environmental quality, education and skills, work-life balance, health status, subjective well-being, jobs and earnings, and social connections, according to OECD Better Lifer Index. Only 1 percent of employees work very long hours, among the lowest rates in the OECD, a club of mostly rich countries, where the average is 13 percent. Air pollution is also considerably lower.
Aussies may be getting fatter and more anxious, but they’re still expected to live a long time. This is due to a new and improved healthcare system and generally high standard of living. Another reason is that residents are better educated about how to stay healthy and why it’s important, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Luxembourg has a compulsory public health system which offers universal coverage to 98 percent of the population. They are free to choose a hospital or doctor for treatment. The state health insurance covers almost all treatments – lab tests, childbirth, rehabilitation and hospitalization, as well as prescriptions.
Rapid increases in life expectancy in South Korea were mostly achieved by reductions in infant mortality and in diseases related to infections and blood pressure, according to a study. Healthy diet, which is high in carbs and low in fat, has helped as well. Locals eat a lot of rice, kimchi, soup, vegetables, and roasted meat or fish.
Public health prevention and health promotion methods across the country have helped to reduce chronic disease and acute illness. The gap in life expectancy between Canada and the U.S. continues to widen; Canadians now live three years longer than Americans. A major difference appears to be the efficiency of the countries’ health care systems, according to a study.
A typical Norwegian diet includes freshwater and seawater fish, especially cod and salmon, fruits, vegetables and bread made of barley, oats, rye or potatoes. Happiness helps longevity too. Norway is No. 1 in the world when it comes to people feeling content and satisfied, according to the World Happiness Index. The country has jumped from 4th place in 2016.
Despite stressful situations, which are common in the region, people there have longer life expectancy than many other countries. The Israeli population has developed a mechanism of adapting to the existing stress, according to a report in Ynet News. The longevity has been caused in part by optimism. “When people are optimistic, they have something to live for. They have children, establish families, and dedicate their lives to their families, believing that they have something worth investing in.”
Contributions to gains in life expectancy reach beyond the health sphere. The recent advances are largely due to declines in mortality from circulatory disease, which appears to be dependent on their economic growth, according to a study.
Austria performs well in many measures of well-being, according to the Better Life Index. The country ranks above the average in income and wealth, jobs and earnings, housing, health status, subjective well-being, personal security, social connections, environmental quality, and education and skills. Life expectancy for women is 84 years, compared with 79 for men. Austria performs very well in terms of water quality, as 93 percent of people say they are satisfied with the quality of their water.
Chile has the longest life expectancy in Latin America. This is largely due to improvements in health, education and housing. Life expectancy has increased by almost 20 years since the 1960’s. The factors influencing the increasing trend are related to the economic and social development of the country, which has also contributed to reduce infant mortality.
The country is known, among other things, for its cycling routes. People commute to work, and even between cities, on a bike. This is an excellent exercise. The gap in life expectancy at birth between men and women has narrowed in recent years from 6.5 years in the mid-1980s to 3.4 years in 2014.
"Life expectancy has generally been increasing over the last 30 years,” according to Pamela Cobb, Population Statistics Division, Office for National Statistics. The gap between male and female life expectancy at birth in the UK has been gradually narrowing – from 6 years in 1980–1982 to 3.7 years in 2013–2015, with males showing faster improvements in mortality compared to females.
Greece is on the list of countries where people tend to live longer because of its small Island in the Aegean Sea called Ikaria, another Blue Zone, five cities where people live measurably longer. There, the locals stay relaxed. They take naps, don’t hurry too much, and keep an avid social life. They eat healthy, too – mostly home-grown vegetables – and a lot of olive oil.
Portugal ranks above the average in housing, work-life balance, personal security and environmental quality in the Better Life Index. The level of atmospheric PM2.5 – tiny air pollutant particles small enough to enter and cause damage to the lungs – is 10.1 micrograms per cubic meter, lower than the OECD average of 13.9 micrograms per cubic meter. Portugal does well in terms of water quality, too.
Life expectancy is growing faster in Ireland than anywhere else in Europe and Irish people have the highest levels of satisfaction with their own health, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a club of mostly rich countries. Irish people say they eat a lot of vegetables and fruits.
Four decades ago the average life expectancy for Kiwis was just over 71.5, so we're expected to live for 10 years longer today. Locals love and eat a lot of fresh seafood. With more than 14,000 kilometers of coastline, it’s no wonder that the country has amazing dishes.
Finland is No. 5 on the World Happiness Index. It was also the second happiest country as per a Gallup World Poll and the OECD (ranking just below Denmark). Finns have a high quality of life, low levels of corruption, high literacy rates, a small income gap, wide access to healthcare, and a healthy work-life balance, according to the BBC.