Average life expectancy and health can vary tremendously throughout different regions of the world. While many countries are experiencing vast improvements in health and wellness, others struggle to maintain an adequate standard of living.
Many wonder what makes some countries healthier than others. We’ll take a look at why some countries' residents are able to live longer, healthier lives while others have subpar standards of living.
What are Blue Zones?
The people in the healthiest regions of the world tend to live in what’s known as blue zones. Regions in Europe, Latin America, Asia, and the US tend to have the highest number of centenarians (people 100+) in the world. These regions are areas of the world where people tend to live the longest.
Each of these specific areas qualify as blue zones having a certain number of characteristics including:
- Low incidences of heart disease, obesity, cancer, and diabetes
- Adherence to mostly plant-based diets
- Regular exercise
- Moderate alcohol consumption
- Proper amounts of sleep
- Strong social and familial networks
Let’s take a look at some of the countries where people tend to live longer than the rest of the world in what’s commonly known as “Blue Zones.” Several factors such as life expectancy, risk of obesity, and other environmental factors play a key role in determining overall country health and wellness.
Japanese culture has long been linked to longer life expectancies due their traditional diet and healthy lifestyle. Foods often consumed in Japanese culture include rice, fish, vegetables, seaweed, and tea. The country tends to have low rates of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
Another factor in the country’s superior standard of living is the country’s sense of community and social cohesion. With a dedication to friends and family—Japanese culture encourages strong social networks that last a lifetime. Okinawa, in particular, is known for its healthier standard of living with low amounts of cancer, heart disease, and other such illnesses.
Mediterranean style diets can help people live longer, healthier lives. Italian culture is embedded with rich social values and a strong sense of community. Italians tend to walk frequently, enjoy time with family, and soak in the sunshine.
The country of Italy has over 10 times more centenarians than the United States. With a traditionally healthy lifestyle and prominently social culture—Italians are able to live longer, richer lives. The classical Sardinian diet is made up of a number of healthy foods including:
These diets contain only minimal amounts of meat and dairy-based products. Modest consumption of Cannonau wine also provides artery-cleansing chemicals known as flavonoids. Each of these distinct health factors help to lower one’s risk of cardiovascular disease and other potential illnesses.
Spaniards have one of the longest life expectancies in the world and one day may surpass all other nations. Following a mediterranean diet is one reason Spain tends to have one of the longest life expectancies on the planet.
Foods commonly consumed by Spainards include one or more of the following:
Each of these foods provide a number of health benefits by lowering inflammation in the body, improving blood vessel function, and reducing the risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes. Like the other nations, a strong social culture and public healthcare system help to maximize total life expectancy.
Activity and regular exercise play an important role in helping to extend the lifespan of Swiss citizens. People tend to stay active in a number of ways including hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter. Flexible working hours and extended vacation time also help to minimize stress and potential ailments.
The Swiss culture also embraces a sense of tight-knit community and social gatherings. Higher rates of education and less work hours are also reasons Switzerland experiences a higher standard of living.
Other reasons for better Swiss health include:
- Higher income and wealth
- Social engagement and connection
- Better environmental quality
- Proper work-life balance
People in Swiss culture tend to be more satisfied with their health than other nations on average. As a result, Switzerland tends to consistently hold one of the highest standards of health on the planet.
Diet plays a key role in raising average longevity in Iceland. With a high consumption of fish and an active lifestyle—Iceland is always near the top of the list in terms of health and overall life satisfaction. Icelandic men, in particular, tend to live longer than individuals in any other European country.
Icelandic diets consist of big breakfasts containing seafood and quality meats. Iceland is also particularly known for utilizing clean, renewable energy which in turn leads to a higher standard of health and living. Some of the other reasons for a higher standard of living include:
- Fresh, locally sourced food
- Nature and less environmental pollution
- Active lifestyles
- Fresh water
The smaller population size of Iceland also is correlated to a number of other risk factors including excellent healthcare, better education, and higher income rates. With a higher standard of living and superior environment—Iceland is considered one of the healthiest countries in the world.
How Can You Live Healthier?
While you may not live in one of the healthiest countries on the planet, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a higher quality of living. Following a healthy diet, performing daily exercise, and minimizing stress are all factors that can lead to a higher quality of life. Mediteranean style diets containing foods such as fish, fruits and vegetables can help to extend life expectancy and improve your standard of living.
If you would like to learn more about healthy cultures throughout the world, be sure to visit and reach out to us for additional information and support. We’re here to help guide you on a path towards long-term health and wellness.