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Why Do Japanese People, Especially Women, Live Longer?

Kane Tanaka, recognized as the oldest person in the world by Guinness World Records, died on April 19, 2022, at the age of 119 in the Fukuoka prefecture, located on the Japanese island of Kyūshū. Why do Japanese people live longer?.

The Woman Post | Carolina Rodríguez Monclou

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People in Japan not only live longer, but they also have a higher quality of life. This has been related, to a large extent, to their diet and lifestyle, but also to external factors, such as health services, which have allowed life expectancy to increase over the years.

According to the OECD data, Japanese women have the highest life expectancy at birth among the G7 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union). While Japanese men have a life expectancy of 81.1 years, Japanese women have a life expectancy of 87.1 years. Thanks to this, they have the oldest people in the world. One of the most famous ones was Kane Tanaka.

Kane, recognized as the oldest person in the world by Guinness World Records, died on April 19, 2022, at the age of 119 in the Fukuoka prefecture, located on the Japanese island of Kyūshū. Tanaka was born on January 2, 1903, in the village of Wajiro, which is now part of Fukuoka.

Kane, who was a premature baby, did not have her first serious health problem until shortly after her 103rd birthday, when she was diagnosed with cancer that she outgrew. This brave Japanese woman, who ran the family business for decades, ate sweets and drank coffee every day, which many interpreted as the secret to her longevity. Do you want to know what her daily routine was? Tanaka used to get up at six in the morning and divided her time between practicing Othello (a strategy game in which memory is essential) and studying mathematics. But there are more reasons behind Japanese people's enviable longevity.

According to an article published in the Japanese Journal of Population, the rapid increase in life expectancy during the 20th century in Japan can be attributed to different factors. These include rapid economic growth, epidemiological transitions, eating patterns, traditional culture of health, but also genetic factors, social structure, and the distribution of income and wealth.

At the genetic level, it is considered that some factors could be involved in longevity, such as a lower frequency of the apolipoprotein E4 (APOE ε4) allele, related to the risk of ischemic heart disease and Alzheimer's disease. However, genes aren't the only reason. Japan has one of the lowest obesity rates globally (about 3.5%) and, therefore, a lower rate of cardiovascular diseases thanks to some government policies.

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Among them, one that stands out is the Metabo law, which promotes the measurement of adults' waist between 40 and 75 years old, both in public administration and companies. Likewise, companies promote breaks for workers to exercise and encourage them to walk or cycle. But what is it that makes this country so healthy? Some studies prove that longevity has only a third to do with genetics and the rest depends on habits; that's how powerful they are. Here are some reasons that may explain why Japanese people live longer:

-Most have a vegetarian diet: Although some eat fish, most of the Japanese diet is vegetarian. Some of their prevalent foods like stir-fried vegetables, sweet potatoes, tofu, and soybeans are low in calories but high in nutrients and good cholesterol fighters.

-They do gardening: Doing activities outdoors in contact with nature is one of the favorite activities of older people in Japan. Gardening not only allows them to connect better with nature but also to do physical activity.

-They have a sense of community: Now that individualism permeates society, the feeling of loneliness and isolation can be emotionally very damaging. In Japan, people have some collective rituals like drinking tea, making them feel part of a group. Also, as a society, they tend to take care of themselves, thereby reducing their stress and anxiety.

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