People all over the world are living longer due to improvements in lifestyle standards and better healthcare. The average life expectancy in almost every country has increased over the last several decades, reaching up to about 90 years old in Monaco, according to the CIA World Factbook.
Other rankings, such as those by the World Economic Forum (WEF) that look at the general health of populations, provide an understanding into where and why people live the longest.
There are five cities where people live measurably longer lives, popularly known as the Blue Zones. From Ikaria, Greece to Nicoya, Costa Rica, years of investigative research has helped to identify the daily habits and diets of people who are living to an age of 100 at a rate 10 times greater than in the United States. But these five locales don’t make up the entire list.
In general, the more developed a country is, the longer its residents are expected to live. But climate, diet and life choices are other factors significantly contributing to how many birthdays people get to celebrate. The secrets to longer lives also include healthy and happy social relationships where older people feel appreciated.
So which countries get all that right, and where is becoming a centenarian is hardly news?
There are more than 58,000 Japanese 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.
The small island of Okinawa is one of the Blue Zones. People there go on morning walks, take dance lessons or teach karate. They stay active. When Michael Booth, a reporter for The Guardian, visited Okinawa to investigate the population’s diet, he was fed “rice and tofu, bamboo shoots, seaweed, pickles, small cubes of pork belly and a little cake at the local ‘longevity café.’”
Interestingly enough, Okinawans actually age slower also because, according to a study, people there have a higher level of sex hormones.
Average life expectancy: 82.12 years
According to a medical journal review, Italians live longer due to a reduced poverty gap that is smaller than in other countries. The standard of living has increased for everybody, which means most people are able to afford better food.
Sardinia is another Blue Zone. Older people there feel happier because they are appreciated. According to the Blue Zones website, a few important Sardinian principles include: Putting family first, celebrating elders, walking more, and laughing with friends. Also, residents often walk, one of the easiest ways to stay in shape for longer and maintain good physical health.
Average life expectancy: 80.43 years
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. There, the locals live relaxed lives. 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. A 2012 NY Times article, which dubbed Ikaria as “the island where people forget to die,” listed their diet. Lunch is almost always beans (lentils, garbanzos), potatoes, greens (fennel, dandelion or a spinach-like green called horta) and whatever seasonal vegetables produced from the garden; dinner was bread and goat’s milk. The locals also drink many antioxidant-rich herbal teas made with ingredients like wild mint or rosemary.
4. Loma Linda, California
Average life expectancy: 10 years longer than average America
Loma Linda is the fourth Blue Zone on the list. People there live longer because most of them are members of the Seventh-day Adventist. They don’t smoke, drink coffee, or drink alcohol. They also spend a lot of time exercising, according the Blue Zone website. They also eat early and light dinners, have a mostly vegetarian diet, drink a lot of water, and socialize. Refined sugars are avoided completely. The locals’ spirituality may also be a factor. A study has suggested that people who go to church on regular basis tend to live longer and are a lot less stressed.
5. Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
The people in the fifth Blue Zone follow simple living philosophies: Drink a lot of water, put family first, eat small dinners, keep a friendly social life, and get enough sunshine. Locals eat a lot of beans, corn, squash, papayas, bananas and peach palms. Residents feel like they have direction and a purpose because of strong community ties, which can actually help you live longer, according to a study published in Psychological Science.
Average life expectancy: 89.52 years
Monaco, with a population of about 38,000, has the highest number of millionaires and billionaires per capita in the world. They can afford to eat healthy, exercise, and not stress about everyday issues. Also, rich countries can spend a lot more on healthcare. Monaco’s is state-funded and provides easy access to all citizens. Bordering the Mediterranean Sea, it’s not a surprise that the people of Monaco eat a lot of fish, fruits, and vegetables. Studies have shown that Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest ever.
Average life expectancy: 84.51 years
People there make a lot of money and the healthcare system is very good. A lot of the money generated from casinos — the backbone of the economy — are invested in healthcare. Macau is also the fourth-wealthiest territory in the world, according to the CIA World Factbook, which means people have more money to spend on good food and healthy lifestyle choices. Strong family relations, typical for Chinese culture, are known to keep people healthier and happier for longer.
8. San Marino
Average life expectancy: 83.24 years
The cuisine is Mediterranean — focusing on fresh and locally grown fruits, vegetables, event pasta, and meat. The country, which is landlocked in Italy, has an advanced agriculture. Employment rates are high, and people don’t stress so much over how they are going to pay the mortgage. San Marino produces lots of corn, olives, grapes, and wheat.