Human life expectancy has increased considerably over the past century, so there’s no reason why we shouldn’t live long and prosper in our age. According to the Australian historical population statistics released by ABS, modern-day Aussie males live 24 years longer than their ancestors at the turn of the 20th century, while Aussie females have 25 years on the women of yesteryear. Let’s have a look at how other nations are doing in terms of longevity and life satisfaction, and find out what we can learn from them.

Longevity leaders

As of 2016, the Mediterranean nation of Monaco currently leads the global longevity ranking with 89.47 years, Japan being second with 85 years, Singapore a close third with 84.95 and Australia in the top 10 with 82.23 years.

The Land of the Rising Sun’s consistent rankings is majorly helped by the island of Okinawa – where the residents have the highest disability-free life expectancy. A high number of people living in Okinawa follow the venerable home gardening tradition, spend a lot of time outdoors and most importantly, eat healthy, with green and yellow vegetables and soy products comprising 30% of their diet.

In terms of which place has the highest number of male centenarians, it’s yet another island – Italy’s Sardinia. With many male Sardinians being shepherds who walk long daily distances, the secret to their longevity also lies in their relaxed, socialising lifestyle and drinking 2-3 glasses of antioxidant-rich black wine a day. A wine a day really does keep the doctor away!

In the United States, the Protestant churchgoers of the small city of Loma Linda are 60-70% less likely to get cancer than the average Californian. Again, this boils down to a combination of a plant-based diet and physical activity. The church advises their followers to complete 30 minutes of aerobic activity 3-5 times per week. Loma Lindans epitomise the benefits of keeping the body and spirit strong.

Not to be outdone in the stakes of having the highest percentage of 90 year olds on the planet, the residents of the small Greek island of Icaria attribute their hardiness to the plant-based diet. 150 different kinds of vegetables grow on the island – that’s a fair few greens to choose from! Being a closely-knit community, the Icarians lead a family-centric lifestyle, drink plenty of herbal tea and take regular afternoon naps.

These days, Central America is becoming a popular destination for those who seek an organic lifestyle in a lush tropical setting, with Costa Rica being a particular hit with US residents. The Nicoya Peninsula on the country’s Pacific coast has recorded four-time lower middle-aged mortality than that in the USA. Also, the probability of a 60 year old Nicoyan male becoming a centenarian is 7 times than of a Japanese male! How so, you might wonder? This might be due to the diet of simple, delicious food: corn tortillas, black beans, rice, eggs, fruit and fresh water rich in calcium and magnesium.

Happiness isn’t only a chemical

But let’s get back to Europe, where Switzerland consistently took out ‘the Happiest Nation’ accolades for years before being pipped by Denmark in 2016. Living in one of the world’s chocolate destinations (the other being Belgium), the Swiss naturally consume the most cocoa and milk made goods than anyone else on the planet.  9kg of chocolate is eaten per year per person and they are certainly happy with it, too.

The key to a long life infographic

Denmark – 2016’s #1 happiest country

With one of the world’s highest per capita incomes – nearly $61,000 per year – Denmark values a healthy social life above all. And while they still have to worry about money and jobs like the rest of us, the Danes nonetheless claim to have the best social support system in Europe. Having a high degree of personal freedom means they don’t take themselves too seriously, either. 

So what do these countries have in common?

  1. Healthy diet: “By eating a wide variety of nutritious foods, in the right amounts, you’ll help set yourself up to be the healthiest version of yourself, now and into the future.” – Emma Jones APD AN, Communications Dietician, Dieticians Association of Australia
  2. Socially active: “Feeling valued and appreciated makes you feel better – mentally, physically and emotionally. Seeing relatives is particularly good, but just being in the company of friends does you good too.” – Rachael Vincent, Media & Public Relations Advisor, benevolent.org
  3. Low stress: “Stress is a normal response to life’s demands, but excessive stress can affect your mental health. Taking steps to reduce or manage stress can assist to prevent depression or anxiety.” – beyondblue
  4. Moderate exercise: “Want a longer healthier life? Move more and sit less. Simply reducing your sitting time by three hours a day could buy you an extra two years of life.” – Wendy Gillett, CEO, Blue Earth

Finally, a nation that values its dough (and pastries in general)…

Sweden is the home of fika, which literally means having coffee with pastries (commonly referred to as fikabröd) as a social activity. So it’s no wonder that Sweden clocks an average life expectancy of 82 years.

Living in a cold climate means the Swedes have to eat sturdy food to keep warm and they sure love their rich pastries, consuming the equivalent of 316 cinnamon buns per person annually. The total weight of these cinnamon buns? That’ll be 148,766,006kg. Yes, you can say the Swedes are a rather happy bunch and with the recent introduction of a six-hour working day, there’s really nothing to frown about in Sweden.

Top 10 tips for a long and healthy life

  • Value simple things
  • Balance life and work
  • Stay in touch with your friends and relatives
  • Stress less
  • Reward your dedication
  • Eat fresh food and drink fresh water
  • While you don’t have to stop completely, drink alcohol in moderation
  • Don’t neglect exercise – but don’t overexert yourself, either
  • Take brief relaxation breaks during the day
  • And lastly – don’t take yourself too seriously!

How can I stay happy and healthy?

To sum up, you can drink wine, eat chocolate and pastries and lead a happy, healthy life. Just don’t stress too much, eat healthily and make time for exercise. And if you’re looking to make sure you are covered throughout your long and healthy life, you might consider having a look at our top seven tips for choosing a health fund!