Humans have been seeking long lives since, oh, there were humans, with current culture revering centenarians and extolling the values of “blue zones,” so-called hot spots for longevity that certain experts look to for clues about lifestyles that can help extend the average person’s time on Earth. But, as always, let’s go back to the numbers.
On average, the people of Monaco live longer than the citizens of any other nation in the world.
It’s not even close. In 2017, the CIA World Factbook estimated that the average life span of Monaco’s residents is 89.4 years. That’s more than four years longer than the second-place finisher, Japan, where people live on average 85.3 years. And, sure, part of Monaco’s first-place longevity record is likely related to wealth: The kingdom places third on the CIA’s list of rich countries, with a per capita income of $115,700.
There’s little research on why people in these small city-states tend to live abnormally long lives.
But something else is going on: Small countries without Monaco’s wealth advantage also show startlingly long lives. In Europe alone, Monaco, San Marino, Iceland, Andorra, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man all break the top 30. Although all but Jersey also show up in the top 30 wealthiest countries per capita, their incomes and health care systems vary wildly, though all are more user-friendly than, say, the American version. Residents of Jersey and Guernsey require private insurance to see a general practitioner or visit the emergency room. Monaco and Andorra follow a system similar to France’s, where employees pay into a social security system that covers much of the costs of medical care — though both small countries enjoy longer average life spans than in France.
There’s little research on why people in these small city-states tend to live abnormally long lives. Many of them aren’t part of the EU and are excluded from the bloc’s fact gathering, and not many people have devoted their lives to studying such micronations. P. Christiaan Klieger, author of The Microstates of Europe, theorizes that while wealth is certainly an “underlying factor,” there are other potential elements that could explain the longer life spans. “I’m thinking the Mediterranean diet in Monaco — lots of fresh fish and veggies,” he says. “I would imagine there would also be a reduction in stress in most of the microstates, since they are comprised of small towns rather than bustling cities.”
Perhaps the small-town life contributes — or the fact that Monaco has nearly seven doctors per 1,000 people, according to the World Heath Organization, which is the second-highest ratio in the world after Cuba, where the estimated life span is a paltry 78.8 years. But perhaps it really does come down solely to money: Monaco also comes first in the world for millionaires per capita, with more than 31 percent of the population worth more than a million dollars as of last year.
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