If you could choose anywhere in the world to live, what factors would guide your decision? You might think about where your loved ones are located, the weather and the economy. Those are important considerations for building a satisfying life, but it’s even more important to think about how long you might have to enjoy that life. If the connection between where you live and your expected lifespan has never crossed your mind, recent research into longevity and geography may blow your mind.
U.S. Geography & Longevity
From 1980 to 2014, researchers tracked population statistics and death records for more than 3,000 counties across the United States. The objective was to determine whether life expectancy varied between regions and what factors might cause those differences if detected. The data revealed varying lifespans with a difference of approximately 20 percent between counties with the lowest and highest life expectancy.
Counties with the lowest life expectancies were located in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Kentucky, North Dakota and South Dakota. Residents in those counties can expect an average lifespan of less than 70 years. Compare that to the average lifespan of people living in the healthiest counties, which was close to 90 years. Some of those leading counties were found in California, Alaska, and Colorado.
Researchers named the following factors as potential causes for those differences:
- Metabolic risk factors
- Quality of healthcare
This study highlighted many coastal states as the healthiest options from a longevity standpoint. States along the Atlantic coast, as well as California and other states along the Pacific coast, presented much longer life expectancies than states located away from the coast.
This backs up other scientific studies that have concluded that people are less stressed when they have blue space in their living environment. Blue space refers to visible water and may include oceans, rivers, and lakes. Living on the coast also gives you easy access to fresh seafood and may promote healthy leisure activities like swimming, boating, fishing, and surfing. Simply spending more time outdoors can have a positive impact on health and wellbeing.
Worldwide Geography & Longevity
When writer Dan Buettner went on an expedition to find the healthiest communities in the world, his top five destinations were located in Greece, Japan, Sardinia, Costa Rica and California. It’s no surprise that these locations are all close to a large body of water, but they also share some other factors that likely contribute to the health of residents, including:
- Consumption of a low-protein diet based more on vegetables and healthy fats than red meat and dairy
- Social lifestyles with deep connections between community members
- Routine exercise
This highlights the importance of diet and personal relationships when improving your quality of life and extending your expected lifespan. Despite the current diet trends that recommend high-fat meal plans loaded with protein, some of the healthiest people in the world eat a Mediterranean diet that keeps animal protein to a minimum.
There is some scientific research that shows a positive connection between longevity and a diet based more on vegetarian foods than animal products. If moving to a coastal city isn’t possible, you can improve your expected lifespan by changing what you eat and strengthening your social ties within your community.