Why Do Japanese People Live So Long?
When you imagine living in Japan, what kind of images spring to mind?
Most people probably imagine living in a small room in a big city. Getting stuﬀed onto a morning subway that’s so crowded sometimes you can’t put your feet down. Regularly working overtime past midnight. And probably taking up smoking to deal with all the stress.
The truth is, this impression isn’t necessarily wrong. In a recent survey published by Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, up to 40% of working-age men reported that they “can’t sleep” because of workplace stress1. And Japan smokes substantially more tobacco than most other countries—more than one-third of men aged 15 years and older smoke2.
It would be pretty diﬃcult to ﬁnd an expert who would claim that high levels of stress, insuﬃcient sleep, and smoking cigarettes are healthy behaviors. And yet, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), Japan’s average life expectancy at birth is 83.7 years. This means that Japan has the highest life expectancy in the world3.
Although it’s impossible to fully explain why this is true, the main causes of Japan’s advanced longevity are commonly thought to be a “walking lifestyle” coupled with Japan’s diet. According to another WHO report, 98% of Japanese school children walk or bike to school every day4, which means that most of them get their recommended 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per day just by going to school5. With regard to food, compared to other developed nations, Japanese people tend to eat fewer calories per day, more vegetables, and less dessert5.
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Sin Chew Daily – 19 April 2018 (Download)