As it turns out, each of the nations that made the top ten are relatively wealthy when compared with many other parts of the world, but those with the highest life expectancy are certainly not the wealthiest. From this, I must conclude that wealth may play a role in life expectancy, but there are clearly other factors involved.
Japan is noted for its extraordinarily low obesity rate – only 3% of Japanese citizens are obese (while in the United States, a full 32% of the populace is obese)! Since several of the top killers of Americans are chronic illnesses that occur with a significantly greater prevalence in the obese Healthy Mind Healthy Body Healthy Life (heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes), it would make sense that America’s portly and out-of-shape populace is a literal drag on the nations’s life expectancy. Japan’s relatively lower rates of these chronic diseases gives further credence the significant role of obesity in life expectancy.
An interesting side note about Japan’s low obesity rate is how they avoid this modern plague – Japanese children are taught to eat only until 80% full, fresh vegetables and fish are eaten in abundance, sweets are eaten occasionally, and more people in Japan get exercise in their daily lives than in America. I think we can learn a lot about a healthy lifestyle from the Japanese!
In terms of demographics, some of the countries in this top-ten list have a tiny population size with a racially homogenous populace (such as San Marino, Andorra, Macau, and even Sweden). Others have larger populations, but still a very homogenous population such as Japan and Australia (92% of the Australian population is of European descent). But Canada, France, and Singapore all have a good degree of racial diversity.
A quick look at demographics reveals that having a small, homogenous populations may be positively associated with higher life expectancy, but it is clearly not the main player in the life expectancy game.
Next I wanted to look at the health care systems of each of the countries on this top-ten list. Unfortunately, a complete statistical analysis of the health care systems of nations with high life expectancies is beyond the ability of my poor little brain, and beyond the scope of a blog entry. But here’s what I can say so far:
Each of the nations and nation-states with the highest life expectancies appear to give access of at least basic health care to even the poorest of their citizens. If someone is having a heart attack, they won’t be turned away. If someone is mauled in an accident of some type, they will receive care. Any person with a chronic illness will receive at least basic care in a public clinic of some kind.
I have much more research to do to compare how this differs from what is currently offered to the poor in the United States under the Medicaid and Medicare program. I’m sure there are may be some significant differences, and I would like to know what they are.
In my research on health care systems, I made a very surprising find that I want to share. Did you know that in the list of countries with highest life expectancies that there is a country that is less affluent than the U.S. that has an infant mortality rate one-third less than that of the U.S., that spends one-seventh of what the U.S. government spends on health care for its populace, and its population lives an average of almost four years longer?
What country is this, and what are they doing right?
And did you know that there is a part of the world where a push to give each and every citizen health insurance has succeeded at insuring almost everyone, but has increased the cost of health care for many of its citizens while showing little or negligible increases in their actual health, while practically bankrupting its government in the process?
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