March 17th, 2012

In what country do people live longest?

It’s not the place that would come to mind first. Or even second or third.

46 Responses to “In what country do people live longest?”

  1. Mr. Frank Says:

    Life expectancy (average lifetime lived in a group) figures are very sensitive to deaths among the young. When a baby dies, someone has to live to 100 to get the average up to 50. When a 20 year old dies in a car wreck, a shooting, or a drug overdose, someone has to live to 80 to get the average to 50. When a society has a sudden decrease in mortality from disease, the average age of the population goes down and life expectancy goes up because of the children saved.

    Relative to other wealthy societies, the U.S. has lots of car wrecks, murders, and drug overdoses among young people. This brings the life expectancy down.

  2. Don Carlos Says:

    The article is a load of horse**** beyond the raw life expectancy data. It’s all diet, exercise, diet, antioxidants, except when it comes to Australia, where uncited experts allegedly claim it is ‘universal health care’ that serves the Aussies so well, a patently unprovable claim.

    I don’t know about the Italian HC ‘system’, but there is no universal healthcare in Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong or Macau. And San Marino, Andorra, Monaco, etc. are so so small as to be only anecdotally curious.

    Not one person in a thousand knows what antioxidants are or what they may or may not do; they have just been told they are ‘good for you’. Hmmm, water prevents hydrocarbon oxidation, so it must be a valued ‘antioxidant.’ Anyone here know what a Free Radical is, in the non-political sense?

    Typical MSM dreck.

  3. neo-neocon Says:

    Don Carlos: Notice I didn’t discuss the explanations. They seem to be based on mere speculation and probably bias. But the stats on life expectancy in the different countries are what interest me. Longevity seems to be highest in tiny rich countries, and a lot of Asian countries among the larger ones.

  4. Don Carlos Says:

    Yes, you did not discuss the article, Neo.

    The biggest source of longevity is one’s parents via DNA, not tofu or oregano. I am tempted to speculate that active, energetic parents beget active and energetics kids, and that may be more nature than nurture also.

  5. Ed Bonderenka Says:

    Back in the day there was a Dannon commercial based on the fact that some Mongolian people routinely lived to be 100.
    And that they ate a lot of yogurt.
    Now I’ll go look at the link.

  6. Wolla Dalbo Says:

    As someone who worked fairly frequently with various statistics and statistical series–Federal and otherwise–for several decades, there are several problems i see here.

    First, what methods were used, what basic assumptions were in place when looking at the data, and what were the criteria used to sort through the data and decide which data elements were to be used in their calculations, and which were discarded, and why?

    What mathematical algorithms might have been applied to the raw data? How were the calculations made?

    If they relied on a lot of UN statistics put out by various national statistical agencies and then perhaps “worked on” by the UN, I would consider such statics suspect.

    Did they have exactly the same sets of comparable data, collected in exactly the same way and with care, from each country involved, and, if not, how did they deal with situation in order to come up with their rankings, etc etc.

    I have certainly seen instances in which people insisted on comparing two or more sets of statistics that could not really be compared– because they were gathered and the end results calculated in very different ways, because what was being measured by one set of statistics was not exactly the same as the others, and/or because the time period one set of statics was covering was not exactly the same time period as the other set(s) of statistics that people were attempting to compare them with; often effectively innumerate, they didn’t see the problem nor, frankly, did they care if this was the classic “apples and oranges.” They “wanted some statistics.”

    The larger problem though, today, is that–from the increasing evidence–Obama & Co. have corrupted the Federal Statistical apparatus so that it increasingly delivers results that are in line with whatever their political strategy is.

    You want low inflation?–drop a couple of major items from the usual “basket of goods and services” used to measure inflation and, voila, low inflation.

    You want lower unemployment?–keep emphasizing the U-1 percentage figure that relies on the narrowest definition of unemployment, and never point out or mention that the broader U-6 measure of unemployment, that takes into account millions of “discouraged workers” and underemployed workers shows close to twice as high a percentage are really unemployed as the narrow statistic would make it seem and, voila, lower unemployment.

    You want to make the case that so many people are now “in poverty” that Obama & Co. must have another four years to fix this shameful and spreading crisis? All righty then, just change the definition of poverty from the old one of actual lack of basic food, clothing, and shelter to one of “relative poverty.” Calculate how many people have fewer cars, TVs, cell phones, computers, or rooms in their houses than others do and voila, as the NYT reported with alarm on its front page a few weeks ago, 46 million people are now “in poverty.”

    Bottom line, I no longer trust any government statistics, especially those that supposedly offer us a snapshot of some aspect of the U.S.–our society, the state of our health, our Energy situation, or our economy, that are in any way related to the policies being promulgated and pursued by Obama & Co., because I think they have been “cooked.”

  7. Occam's Beard Says:

    Anyone here know what a Free Radical is, in the non-political sense?


    A free radical is a chemcial species with an unpaired electron. Physiologically free radicals commonly result from oxidation with molecular oxygen (which has a triplet ground state, i.e., has two unpaired electrons) and hence its reactions with singlet state organic compounds tends to result in production of one or more free radicals, either of the organic compound, or from the oxygen molecule, or both.

    Free radicals, especially those derived from reduction of molecular oxygen (superoxide and hydroxyl radicals) are often highly reactive, and therefore dangerous physiologically. For this reason organisms have evolved ways to minimize their production (e.g., two rather than one-electron oxidations with catalase dealing with the hydrogen peroxide so formed) and to control their production (e.g., mediating oxidation through use of flavins, of which riboflavin is an example) and/or deal with those once formed (e.g., superoxide dismutase). Antioxidants, whether endogenous or exogenous, are basically honey traps for free radicals.

    Simple analogy: using something as reactive as molecular oxygen as the terminal electron acceptor is like smashing a wrecking ball (the O2) into a building (the compound to be oxidized). Chunks fly everywhere, and those chunks will damage nearby buildings unless steps are taken to control the chunks.

    More information than you ever wanted, I’m sure!

  8. SteveH Says:

    I agree with Wolla. You can’t believe a thing about statistics coming from govt bureacrats with an activist agenda. And the agenda ALWAYS points toward a nanny state, where remarkably, plenty of bureacrats are imperative.

    Who would take the bet that something as simple as world population statistics aren’t exaggerated by at least 15 percent? I sure wouldn’t.

  9. Occam's Beard Says:

    Life expectancy (average lifetime lived in a group) figures are very sensitive to deaths among the young.

    An excellent point, and one rarely appreciated. Furthermore, the US counts infant mortality differently from most other countries, which exclude stillborn infants and those who die shortly after birth. The US counts them all.

    (Btw, the same argument applies to the oft-cited point about 50% of all marriages ending in divorce. One Hollywood joker with four divorces requires four couples to go the distance just to bring the average to 50%.)

    Relative to other wealthy societies, the U.S. has lots of car wrecks, murders, and drug overdoses among young people. This brings the life expectancy down.

    Black mortality statistics drive down the figures for the U.S. Life expectancy at birth for whites in the U.S. is 78.4 years, whereas that for blacks is 73.6 years. Leading cause of death among black males 15-25? Homicide.

  10. Occam's Beard Says:

    And “healthcare” ain’t gonna help against homicide. Kevlar vests, maybe.

  11. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    Hong Kong? Hong Kong? Really? I was there in 1957. Most of the people were dirt poor (refugees from Red China) then. Many died evey week in the floating city of Aberdeen. I revisited in 2009. They’re rich now and Aberdeen is gone. But the air is so smoggy (Pollution from the factories in the Guangzhou area to the north) as to remind me of Los Angeles circa 1950s. A large portion of the people still smoke. (Unfiltered ciggies to boot.) The traffic is very heavy at all times, with exhaust from diesel trucks being a major polluter. And the food – most of it is tasty, but by current standards of what one should eat, it is very heavy on rice, oil, and many parts of animals that are normally thrown out here. A trip through a meat market there is not for the queasy. The smog has been a feature for the last twenty years and smoking has always been a major habit in SE Asia. I suspect the statistics are poorly kept or faked. Either that or we may see some new studies that praise the health effects of industrial pollution and cigarette smoking.

  12. SteveH Says:

    “”Either that or we may see some new studies that praise the health effects of industrial pollution and cigarette smoking.”"

    Just think of smoking and industrial pollution like ankle weights for the lungs.

  13. Gringo Says:

    The reason the Aussies are so high up on the list is because they Foster a very high level of Philosophy. In fact, they are World Champs in Ethanol-Philosophy. :)

    The countries with highest life expectancy have very low fertility rates. Data is from 2008 World Bank data, except for Monaco: 2012 CIA World Factbook.

    10. Italy 1.414
    9. Australia 1.97
    8. Hong Kong 1.0362
    7. Guernsey 1.414 (Channel Islands)
    6. Andorra 1.26
    5. San Marino 1.5
    4. Singapore 1.28
    3. Japan 1.34
    2. Macau 0.946
    1 Monaco 1.51

    When you factor in the low fertility rate, one could say that the countries with the longest life expectancy also have very low expectancies of being a viable societies a century from now, as they will be depopulated.

  14. Occam's Beard Says:

    Gringo raises an interesting point: to what extent does life expectancy depend on age distribution?

    One could imagine that the life expectancy at birth of a young population would be relatively lower because of the terms quadratic in population, e.g., young people killing each other either intentionally or accidentally (in e.g., traffic accidents). (For example, a student was recently killed at a nearby high school when attempting to cross the street in front of another high school student who was driving by.)

    A single child born into a population consisting exclusively of, say, 35 year olds would probably face a lot less risk than one born into a population with a normal cohort of infants.

  15. Beverly Says:

    Peaceful contemplation can be a palate-cleanser: I offer my cousin Bruce’s gardening blog, with fine photography:

    Small doings in Rome, Georgia. And one monster cat, a frenetic poodle, slugs having a night out, and garden-building projects. (He really gets into building: the conservatory, the frog pond, the walkways … and as a good cook, he eats what he grows. My cousin Patty, a lamentable cook, is grateful and does the washing-up. ;-))

    Have a lovely weekend, all.

  16. Ed Bonderenka Says:

    The question was “people live the longest?”.
    If one person lived to be 200, would that country be the answer?
    The answer is 42.

  17. Don Carlos Says:

    OB is that one person in a thousand. But we denizens of this blog already know him for that! That makes me one of 999.

  18. GoneWithTheWind Says:

    Longevity is genetic you get it from your parents and not your food. Wish it were true that you could eat specific foods and live longer. Pure voodoo.

    Most countries records aren’t worth spit. Most of the countries on this list ignore early deaths when they compute average age of death. And in some places they merely tally up those who are left and claim that is typical. Since everyone who died young is not around to dispute it then it must be true.

    And lastly there is the problem of people moving. An actual study by a large college discovered that Florida may indeed have the fountain of youth because it had so many older people. The study went on for a few years and produced a few books and reports until someone pointed out that most of these people had just moved their a few years ago and their age had nothing to do with Florida or oranges or any of the other wild speculation in the reports. Cities and countries tend to fall intro this same trap. Especially a country like Monaco with 36,000 residents most of who move their and aren’t born and raised their. There is a mistake in counting up the survivors and trying to attribute some factor to their longevity as though all of those who died younger didn’t do the same things or eat the same diet.

  19. Don Carlos Says:

    Ed B. said:
    “Back in the day there was a Dannon commercial based on the fact that some Mongolian people routinely lived to be 100.”
    Yeah, and the others routinely died a lot younger. Maybe from yogurt aspiration.

  20. rickl Says:

    Geez. Nobody had better try to pass off any bogus statistics on this group of commenters. They’ll be eaten alive.

  21. Ed Bonderenka Says:

    88% of statistics are fabricated.
    Wait! 89%. That sound better.

  22. Gringo Says:

    Regarding statistics: murder statistics in Venezuela are interesting. The basic story is that the murder rate has ballooned under 13 years of Chavez’s government. The Chavez government has stopped reporting murder statistics to the UN. Not surprisingly, because it is a controversial issue, Venezuelan murder statistics in Wkipedia get changed a lot. I once saw them change within the course of several hours.

    One year hardly anything had been reported about murder statistics in Venezuela, until some Chavez honcho in Caracas inadvertently blurted out some statistics towards the end of the year. [2007 or so].

    The murder rate in Venezuela is sky-high, but precisely how high, I doubt that many people know.

  23. Pat Says:

    Monaco. Who lives there? Rich people. Lets check the rates for the richest counties surrounding Washington DC. I bet you’l find they do pretty well. Include Washington DC and the rates will drop to the US national average.

  24. expat Says:

    On the Mongolian yoghurt thing: A few years back, a German journalist travelled for a while with Mongolian nomads and did a really good TV report. He asked them about there longevity. They didn’t attribute it to eating yoghurt, but to not eating fruits and vegies.

    Down with apples and peas.

  25. Gary Rosen Says:

    Gringo: “The countries with highest life expectancy have very low fertility rates. ”

    We have a winner. The average life expectancy of a country is very dependent on infant mortality rates, probably more so than even genetics or “free radicals” (Ayers and Dohrn???) since a death at an early age brings the average down way more than a couple of years at the end. That is why I think the statistics are probably accurate.

    This is also why the argument “see all those European countries with their government health care have longer life expectancy” is bogus, since the fertility rates are low. And it relates directly to the current controversy over mandated birth control insurance.

  26. Ed Bonderenka Says:

    What I was trying to point out with the answer 42 was that I think the question (like “What is the answer to life, the universe, etc) was phrased ambiguously (I hesitate to say poorly).
    There’s a lot of great statistical analysis here, but it seems that each person redefines the question. Something that also happens in political debate
    The process observed here reminds me of something I was considering a few days ago and of which this is a prime example.
    In the Hitchhikers Guide trilogy, it’s postulated that the earth was designed as a great supercomputer.
    With the Internet and the discussions such as this, like Arpanet was designed for originally, many great minds become subroutines or co-processors of a large algorithm,
    A lot of thinking is exhibited and reasoning presented and observers learn from the process.
    But mostly the answer is 42.

  27. Michael Adams Says:

    I knew that the difference in counting infant mortality skewed the life-expectancy statistics, but that part about more births meaning more babies to die, and vice versa, was really astute, and I had not thought of that. Shazzam!

    And Bonderenka, I have a very smart (OK, also very smart ass) friend who says it’s the square root of two.

  28. Mr. Frank Says:

    Lefties like to point out negative comparisons between the U.S. and Europe to show the superiority of the European way of life. If you compare people of European descent living in areas of the U.S. with similar populations (e.g., Minnesota, North Dakota), you will find that the statistics on longevity, violent crime, and literacy are very European.

  29. Wolla Dalbo Says:

    In doing a lot of heavy duty research, and answering tens of thousands of
    requests for information over the course of close to three decades. I came to the realization that people want “certainty,” and a definite answer, and don’t usually really care how the answer was arrived at or even if it was likely true.

    They just wanted an answer or a figure–answers to questions that are sometimes just not answerable because, for instance, no one has bothered to gather statistics on that particular subject, or there are no recent statistics, or the statistics that are out there are not “good” ones; often because some advocacy group or organization that has a very strong and vested interest in seeing to it that the statistics they gather support their agenda are the source for the only statistics available.

    My fellow researchers–a humorless lot–were horrified when I suggested that we just make up a number, any number–say 42.7%–and that would satisfy most customers.

  30. Gary Rosen Says:

    Michael Adams:

    ” I had not thought of that. Shazzam!”

    Me too! I had always suspected there was some hidden bias in the life expectancy numbers – not a deliberate manipulation as some suspect but a factor that was not being taken into account. However I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

    The clue for me here was looking at the top two places – they are both gambling havens. Gamblers are not known for their healthy lifestyles but they are known for having little to do with children. Then it clicked in for me, and Gringo brought the stats to back it up.

  31. Ed Bonderenka Says:

    Wolla Dalbo Says:
    I suggested that we just make up a number, any number–say 42.7%–and that would satisfy most customers.
    Sounds a lot like 42 to me.

  32. Gringo Says:

    Mr. Frank
    If you compare people of European descent living in areas of the U.S. with similar populations (e.g., Minnesota, North Dakota), you will find that the statistics on longevity, violent crime, and literacy are very European.

    I recall reading a Milton Friedman quote with a similar message, and quickly found it in the Intertubes:

    A Scandinavian economist once stated to Milton Friedman: “In Scandinavia we have no poverty.” Milton Friedman replied, “That’s interesting, because in America among Scandinavians, we have no poverty either.” Indeed, the poverty rate for Americans with Swedish ancestry is only 6.7%, half the U.S average. Economists Geranda Notten and Chris de Neubourg have calculated the poverty rate in Sweden using the American poverty threshold, finding it to be an identical 6.7%.

    Ironically, this points us towards the conclusion that what makes Sweden uniquely successful is not the welfare state, as is commonly assumed. Rather than being the cause of Sweden’s social strengths, the high-tax welfare state might have been enabled by the hard-won Swedish stock of social capital. It was well before the welfare state, when hard work paid off, that a culture with strong protestant working ethics developed.

    Given the impending financial and demographic collapses of the EU, I doubt that the Europhiles/Oikophobics among us will have as much ammunition to fire as they once had.

  33. Gringo Says:

    My argument about the countries with highest life expectancy having very low fertility rates was made not with the intent of pointing out that fewer infant births and thus fewer infant deaths result in a higher life expectancy.

    The point I was trying to make was that with such low fertility rates, in the long term they were not viable societies- ergo not models for the benighted US.

    Except for the Aussies, who along with the highest fertility rates in the group, also do well with quaffing beer.

  34. Gary Rosen Says:

    Gringo, that is definitely true as well. That is why I brought up the birth control controversy since there is more going on here than just statistics.

    Yes the Australians are outliers in this group, with a much higher birth rate than the others. However it is still below replacement, which I understand is around 2.1 to allow for childless, infant mortality etc.

  35. Foxfier Says:


    Longevity isn’t average life expectancy!


    IIRC, Japan has the most “really old people” rating, and they have a bad habit of finding out it’s welfare gaming. (like when they went to give the prize to the lady who was now the oldest in the nation, and on the third try they barged in and found out she’d been dead for a decade while her daughter kept cashing her SS checks.)

  36. Beverly Says:


    Some of you may not have heard of this yet because the order was just issued on Friday.

    In the name of an undefined “national emergency” and the declared need to prepare Americans to “respond” to the “national defense needs” of the United States, the Obama administration seized authority on Friday, March 16 to commandeer the production, use, and distribution of all resources, public and private, in the country, including agricultural, energy, health, transportation, water, construction, and – just in case something is left out – the catch-all phrase “ALL other materials, services, and facilities.”

    To do all this, there will be at least TWO new organizations:

    The Defense Production Act Committee (DPAC), comprised of the heads of the departments and offices of the Executive Branch; and

    The National Defense Executive Reserve (NDER).

    Think of the DPAC as the Politburo, and the NDER as Obama’s Brown Shirts (his “civilian army”).

    The actual executive order can be found here:

    Don’t believe me? Google this: “obama issues executive order martial law march 16.”

  37. Beverly Says:


  38. neo-neocon Says:

    Beverly: nope, it’s not what you think it is.

    See this and also this.

  39. Jeremy Jones Says:

    re: Andorra

    You would be amazed at the number of people that smoke here. Restaurants don’t even have a non-smoking section.

    re: universal health care

    Why isn’t Canada in this list if universal health care is the reason Australia is in the top 10? Canada has the same vast natural frontiers as some of the other countries in the list.

  40. Don Carlos Says:

    Beverly and Neo:

    From Doug Mataconis, via the HotAir link:

    “The fact that the President of the United States is still exercising authority granted during the Korean War and the height of the Cold War is yet another reflection of how power, once assumed by the Imperial Presidency, is never surrendered. The fact that an Executive Order like this was released on a Friday afternoon and has been largely ignored by the traditional media is an indication of just how easy it is for politicians to manipulate the news cycle. And the idea that the government has authority like that described in this document, even only in theory, and that most Americans aren’t even aware of it, is a reflection of just how little we know about the things that are done in our name. Those are all legitimate issues, but they go far deeper than this one relatively innocuous Executive Order.”

    That folks like Beverly are making the rest of us readers aware of it is valued. One snuffs the canaries in the mines at one’s own risk. The links Neo provided do not quote the entire EO language, thus I am still uncertain to what full scope of uses the EO can be put by BHO or any other malign American emperor, “even only in theory”.

    I shall try to find time to read the whole EO.

    Thanks, Beverly.

  41. Sergey Says:

    There is a strange omission in this stat: Okinawa island has much more very old (older than 100 years) people than the rest of Japan. And if you look for explanation, it worth to contemplate why 4 of these champions are Chinese or Japonese. (5, if Okinawa islanders are counted separately). Confucianism looks like a very important factor here. And remember, that neither China nor Japan have nursery homes, and could not have. It would be a complete lost of face for a Confucian moral canon for children not to care their elderly parents themselves. So these people live in multi-generational families, with total respect for elders from younger family members. Patriarchy is good for your longevity! And racial and cultural homogenity, too.

  42. neo-neocon Says:

    Don Carlos: my point is that there is no nothing new or special about Obama’s role in this, and making a big deal out of it as though it’s some special and unprecedented power grab on his part (which is the way it’s been framed) is just plain wrong. It’s not as though we lack for examples of other exercises of expansion of power on his part; this is not such an expansion by him.

  43. stan Says:

    The ranking I find most interesting — once a person turns 65, in what country is he most likely to live the longest?

    Of course, since that is actually the ranking that matters when we talk about quality of health care and the US ranking is so stellar, it’s the one we never hear mentioned.

  44. Gary Rosen Says:

    “Confucianism looks like a very important factor here. ”

    Or genetics. Or diet. Or something.

  45. Ymarsakar Says:

    Why Japan isn’t about walking for health. Almost every junior and high school student goes to school either on a bike or by walking. The Japanese handle transportation via cities by train, which is a linear circuit going all the way from the south west of Japan to the North East in a diagonal, almost. For those with the money to afford it, vehicles are used. But high schoolers and college students usually don’t have the money for such things. And the ones that do, are usually rich kids that are the heirs of Zaibatsu, or large corporations: their version of an aristocracy complete with feudal retainers.

    Chi gong practitioners and martial artists routinely increase the average life span, because they’re just too healthy for their age. They don’t even look their age. Japan and China and Taiwan and Singapore and Hong Kong are, or were, all meccas of martial arts.

  46. Ymarsakar Says:

    Most Taiji Chuan and chi gong users look 20 years younger. Their age is 50-60 actual, but some look in their 40s or even late 30s. And the ones that are in their 40s, look like they are in their late 20s. No joke.

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