Can moving to a different country really help you live longer?

live longerCC: Willian Justen de Vasconcellos at Unsplash

Each year a new study reveals which country has the world’s longest life expectancy. After publishing their findings, the researchers will claim that living in certain places helps you live longer. Most of the time, it isn’t the location itself. Instead, other nations are better at adopting healthy habits.

If you want to live longer and you’re considering an international move, it’s worth thinking about why the residents of certain nations do so well. With an insight into their lifestyle secrets, you might find that location isn’t everything.

Which countries feature residents that live longer?

In 2018, it was predicted that by 2040 the top five countries where people will live longer include:

  1. Spain
  2. Japan
  3. Singapore
  4. Switzerland
  5. Portugal

Admittedly, there’s quite a diverse range there. Switzerland is small, landlocked, and nestled in the Northern Hemisphere. Both Singapore and Japan are high flyers in the far east, brimming with technological advances. As for Spain and Portugal, they’re close together in the Mediterranean portion of Europe and share similar rustic family values.

One unifying feature they do have, though, is a high GDP. They’re all developed countries, which comes with certain advantages if you want to live longer.

Worryingly, the United States position on the table is set to plummet. At present, it sits at 43 in the world’s life expectancy rankings. In the future, it will drop to 64.

Which countries have the lowest life expectancy?

To illustrate how influential wealth is when it comes to living longer, here are the countries that currently have the lowest life expectancy:

  1. Sierra Leone (51 years)
  2. Angola (52.4 years)
  3. Central African Republic (52.5 years)
  4. Chad (53.1 years)
  5. Cote d’Ivoire (53.3 years)

If some of you reading this are in your 50s and feeling a little shocked, it’s worth knowing why these countries have low life expectancies. Simply being in Africa isn’t the only cause. Malaria, poor access to reproductive health facilities, bad health facilities in general, low-income, and turbulent governments make their contributions as well.

What lifestyle features are making people live longer in the top countries?

In many cases, it’s not so much the geographical location, but the lifestyle habits that locals adopt. Okay, so certain places will confer advantages if they have less pollution. Or, if they’re prone to fewer adverse weather events. But, a lot of the top five countries’ successes come from certain habits we could all try:

Spain, Portugal, and healthy eating

One reason for Spain’s rise to the top is the healthy eating habits its population indulge in. Fish, a variety of fruit, olive oil, and vegetables all play a strong role in daily meals. Fast food joints are overlooked in favor of homecooked meals. In terms of effects on life expectancy, the Spanish diet will lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and decrease your diabetes risk. Over in Portugal, the diet is very similar. In modern circles, it’s referred to as the Mediterranean Diet.

Japan’s healthy living secrets

Japan’s healthy living secrets stem from the 1980s, when the government of the time recognized that public health interventions were needed to reduce the nation’s stroke risk. Its approach included reducing salt intake, encouraging walking and physical activity at all ages, and asking citizens to monitor their own blood pressure. Overall, a combination of self-awareness and sensible choices go a long way. One of the most important factors seems to be exercise after retirement. In many countries, retirement is a slow decline toward poor fitness. Maybe we can learn a lot from Japan on that one.

Singapore’s government likes to form public health responses too

After learning that the three biggest killers in Singapore were pneumonia, dementia, and heart disease, the government responded accordingly. After introducing its healthy living plans, the predicted life expectancy rose dramatically. Therefore, it’s worth considering whether more public health interventions is a good thing.

In Switzerland, there’s an excellent sense of wellbeing

Unlike many countries, Switzerland’s life expectancy has continued to rise since the start of the 20th century. It’s easy to speculate over what contributes. However, some feel that the better work-life balance, walking a lot, wealth, and a strong sense of community all help. Each reason makes sense in its own way. With less stress, more exercise, money for health care, and others around us providing support, our life expectancies would rise too.

When it comes to living longer, it’s possible to take tips from each of the five countries. Between now and 2040 it will be interesting to see if the latest predictions come true.

About the Author

Laura McKeever
Laura has been a freelance medical writer for eight years. With a BSc in Medical Sciences and an MSc in Physician Assistant Studies, she complements her passion for medical news with real-life experiences. Laura’s most significant experience included writing for international pharmaceutical brands, including GSK.