Have you ever wondered if you could live a longer, healthier life somewhere else? It's possible: according to several lists ranking life expectancy by country, including by the World Health Organization and the CIA, the length of time you can expect to live is closely connected to the country or region you live in.
It’s not surprising why some places are conducive to longer lives: political stability and economic success can help ensure long lives, as well as modern and accessible health care systems, good sanitation and hygiene practices, high levels of education and governments that encourage their citizens to lead healthy lifestyles. Some of the countries and regions with the longest-living populations also have other factors working in their favor, such as the availability of fresh and healthy food, more relaxed lifestyles, and natural geography that is conducive to active lifestyles.
The CIA put out a list of the countries with the highest life expectancy in 2012, and the World Health Organization regularly releases statistics and data related to life expectancy around the world. Based on some of this information, we have narrowed down a couple of countries and regions where people can expect to enjoy some of the longest lifespans in the world. If you hope to live well into your 80s or even 90s, it might be worth considering moving to these places - or at least taking a few cues from the lifestyles of those who live there.
10 Live on an island
There’s a reason why it’s popular to enjoy a vacation relaxing on an island: island life seems to agree with most people and appears to contribute to a longer life expectancy of residents. Wealthier islands (with a high GDP per capita) tend to do better in terms of life expectancy. Some of the islands in the world with the longest life expectancies include the Channel Islands off the coast of Britain. These islands (which are British subjects and have their own parliament) are home to some of the longest-living populations in the world, especially on the islands of Guernsey (life expectancy of 82.16 years according to CIA) and Jersey (81.38 years). The tiny islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon (administered by France but located off of the coast of Canada,) also have a good life expectancy, with citizens living an average of 79.87 years. And the relaxing lifestyle in the Caribbean also seems to promote a long life: the Cayman Islands, Virgin Islands, and Turks and Caicos often make it into the top 30 or 40 countries in the world in terms of life expectancy.
Singapore is consistently ranked in the top 10 in lists for life expectancy of both men and women. Women in particular can expect to live long lives, 85.1 years, and men on average live 80.2 years, according to World Health Organization in 2014. A major contributing factor is that Singaporeans enjoy excellent and affordable heath care. Singapore is also known for its organization and cleanliness. Residents of the small country enjoy a good work/life balance compared to other areas of Asia, and it is overall a very safe place to live. It’s also one of the wealthiest countries in the world in terms of GDP per capita.
Sweden is consistently ranked as one of the countries in the world with the highest life expectancy for both men and women (#9 according to the World Health Organization in 2013), and it has the longest life expectancy out of the Scandinavian countries. The overall quality of life in Sweden is good: workers get at least 5 weeks of paid vacation every year, parental leave is long and there is universal healthcare, free university and subsidized daycare. Although Sweden is known for its long, dark winter, there are plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities in the country including skiing, skating, hockey and more, making it easier for its population to enjoy a balance, active lifestyle. The rest of Scandinavia also has respectable lifespan thanks to high levels of education, stable political systems, an even distribution of wealth and overall comfortable lifestyles. In 2013, Norway was ranked #17 and Denmark #37 in the World Health Organization’s list of life expectancy. Sweden, Norway and Denmark also have some of the highest GDP per capita in the world.
It’s not surprising that Italians enjoy long lives: their Mediterranean diet, which consists of olive oil, fresh vegetables and fruit and leaner meats such as fish, is famous for contributing to the healthy lives of Italians. Italy also has well-educated doctors and an excellent medical system. Interestingly, the long life expectancy of Italians is despite the fact that many Italians are heavy smokers. Life expectancy in Italy varies widely throughout the regions. Women in the northern part of the country can expect to have longer lives, whereas men have a better life expectancy if they live in the south. On average, Italians live 83.1 years according to the World Health Organization.
6 Australia and New Zealand
Australia is consistently ranked high in terms of life expectancy: they were #4 in the world in a list of life expectancy by the United Nations in 2011. This is in part because the Australian government has put forth many initiatives in recent years to raise public awareness about leading a healthy lifestyle and encouraging its population to quit smoking. Australia has a good public health care system that provides its population with access to general practitioners. However, Australia also has rising obesity rates, which could eventually impact its average life expectancy. Neighboring New Zealand also typically makes it into the top 20 countries in the world in terms of life expectancy. The average life expectancy of its population has steadily increased in recent years. However, its indigenous population, the Maori, have a lower life expectancy than the rest of the population.
The French population has an excellent life expectancy, especially French women, thanks to their healthy and balanced lifestyles. French women live on average to 84.9 years according to WHO’s 2014 report, which makes them the second-longest living women in the world (after Japanese women). France has a well-educated population and an abundance of fresh, high quality food. Women indulge in chocolate, wine and possibly even cigarettes, but in moderation. The country has also lowered its rate of alcoholism and smoking amongst its population in recent years, leading to an increase in life expectancy. Exercising and a healthy, balanced lifestyle are also important to many French. In addition, France’s medical system is excellent.
If you are a man, you might want to move to Iceland: it has the longest life expectancy for men in the world, 81.2 years, according to the WHO’s 2014 report. In general, Iceland is known for being home to a very content population who have well-balanced lives: women tend to work outside of the home, but also have many children and are part of strong (and large) family structures. The country has one of the highest GDP per capita in the world, providing financial security to many families. Iceland has a welfare system that is similar to that of other Nordic countries providing an excellent social safety net, as well as a thriving economy with a lot of entrepreneurs and exports of products and services around the world. On top of it all, the country is safe and its population is very well educated.
Japan has enjoyed a rapidly increasing life expectancy in recent decades and ranks #3 for life expectancy in the 2012 list by the CIA. In fact, Japanese women live the longest in the world: an average Japanese woman lives to be 87 years old according to the World Health Organization. As testament to their longevity, Japan is currently home to the world’s oldest woman as well as the oldest man in the world. The Japanese diet, which is high in vegetables and includes seaweed and fish, has been attributed to their long lives. (For example, the oldest woman has said her favorite meal is fish and rice). The personalities and lifestyles of the Japanese are also thought to contribute to their long life expectancy: the Japanese have strong social networks and they participate in spiritual exercises like tai chi and yoga.
Macau, a small country surrounded by China that was one a Portuguese colony, was ranked #1 for the longest life expectancy in the world according to the CIA. It has a small population and a high GDP per capita, and has a very high Human Development Index compared to other parts of Asia. Women live especially long lives here. The small country consists of many expats of British, Portuguese, American, Chinese, Malaysians and Filipino descent. Its cuisine is influenced by its various waves of immigrant groups, and perhaps took the best of all of these types of cuisine. Interestingly, despite their long lives, the small country is known for its casinos and having a population that smokes.
Another small country known for its casinos, elite lifestyle and beautiful beaches, Monaco consistently ranks at the top of most lists in terms of life expectancy. It was #1 in the CIA ranking and by the WHO, and its citizens can expect to live almost 90 years. Monaco’s wealth (it has one of the highest GDP per capita) is credited for the long lives of its citizens. It also has state-funded healthcare and attracts excellent doctors. In addition, the inhabitants of Monaco enjoy eating the very healthy Mediterranean diet and are said to have a less stressful lifestyle than in many other countries.