People in Spain will soon have the longest lifespans of anyone in the world — here are their secrets
Spain is on track to have the world’s longest life expectancy by 2040 with a lifespan of 85.8 years, surpassing Japan.
A report from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which formed in 2007 with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, found that Japan will fall to second place with a life expectancy of 85.7 years. Although the report does not provide reasoning for each country’s ranking, the institute analyzed 250 different causes of death to reach conclusions.
Researchers took into account high blood pressure, tobacco usage, unsafe water and sanitation, air pollution, child malnutrition, and many other factors.
Spain is one of only four countries set to exceed an 85-year life expectancy by 2040. The country spends about 10% of its GDP on healthcare, according to the online expat guide Expatica. Spain also ranks very highly in global lists of healthcare systems. In the World Economic Forum’s 2018 Global Competitiveness Report, for example, Spain tied for the healthiest country in the world.
Here are some of the reasons why people in Spain live so long.
Spain is famous for its Mediterranean diet, and some residents see it as the main reason for their high life expectancy.
Fernando de la Fuente, who has run a fruit and vegetable stall in a Madrid market for 47 years, told The Guardian he was unsurprised that researchers see a connection between Spaniards’ diet and longevity.
He said people in Spain eat well because they include fruits, vegetables, and fish in their diet all year. Fruits and vegetables are generally both accessible and affordable throughout Spain.
“A Spanish diet without fruit and vegetables is just unthinkable,” de la Fuente told The Guardian.
There is growing evidence that the Mediterranean diet — which emphasizes vegetables, fish, olive oil, nuts, and whole grains while slashing processed foods and red meat — can help protect people from aging.
Studies show that people who follow this diet have a reduced risk of heart problems, diabetes, and some types of cancer. The diet is also rich in healthy fats that have been linked to higher cognitive performance and a lower risk of dementia.
The country also boasts an excellent healthcare system.
The healthcare system in Spain ranks as one of the world’s best.
All Spanish citizens have a constitutionally guaranteed access to the country’s universal healthcare system, and less than 20% of residents choose to obtain private health insurance.
Spain is also a tight-knit country where people place great emphasis on family.
Antonio Abellán, who conducts research on aging at the National Research Council in Spain, told The Guardian that social relationships play a large role in Spaniards’ longevity.
Spain is not the only Mediterranean country to value family so much, but Abellán said being close with one’s relatives goes a long way for health.
“It’s not the only thing — nor the most important thing — but I think it goes some way to explaining the differences between Spain and other countries,” Abellán told The Guardian. “It’s a bonus. If you live better, you end up living longer.”