Case Study: Life expectancy
Life expectancy stands to be the most significant measure of health globally. The aspect of life expectancy across the countries arises to the most asked question, which is how long a typical person is expected to live. Various countries differ in their life expectancies due to some numerous reasons concerned with the aspect of health. Therefore, life expectancy in different countries is defined by some commonalities that add up to either long life expectancy or short life expectancy.
Countries with the longest life expectancy have several commonalities that relate to the aspect of life longevity. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the top countries with the longest life expectancy include Japan, Hong Kong, Andorra, Spain, Singapore, Italy, Switzerland, Sweden, Australia, and Israel (Friedman, 2016). According to the OECD, Japan’s life expectancy is approximately 83 years of age for men, and women extend it to almost 84 years. On the other hand, countries such as Spain, Andorra, Singapore, Italy and Switzerland are having an overall life expectancy of 83 years of age (Healthy people 2020, 2016).
Life expectancy in various countries is determined by the computation of the average ages at which people in a given country die. In most countries, the aspect of infant mortality rate is taken into account as the key determinant factor, in that it is notable that countries with the lowest infant mortality rates experience the longest life expectancy. For instance, as of 2014, OECD statistics revealed that Japan, Hong Kong, and Switzerland had the lowest death rates whereby each of them had less than two infants die at the age between zero to fifteen months in every 1000 births. As per the statistics, the United States got a challenge in that its infant mortality was at the rate of six infant deaths per every 1000 births. This data reflects their position as 42nd amongst the countries with the longest life expectancy in the world (Healthy people 2020, 2016).
The commonalities experienced in the countries with the longest life expectancy include the cultural environment that supports a healthy lifestyle habit like exercise and diet. In these countries, especially in Japan, it is evident that many individuals, both old and young, are involved in different cultural practices that see them contribute equally irrespective of the age and gender (Healthy people 2020, 2016). These cultural practices such as general gardening in the respective countries provide the opportunities for exercising to a greater extent. In the process of farming or gardening, they are exposed to sunlight, which enhances their exposure to vitamin D (Buettner, 2012).
Through their cultural practices of eating, they are well equipped with nutritious food that has fewer calories but more protein, vitamin B, and calcium amongst other nutrients. Countries such as Japan and Hong Kong to a larger extent still uphold these cultural practices up to date irrespective of the age. For instance, in Japan, Okinawans up to date follow an adage that states “eat until you get 80% full” instead of eating too much as others do (Aísa, Clemente, & Pueyo, 2014). By taking into account these features of cultural practices and eating habits in these countries, their chances of becoming victims of diseases such as cancer or some aging conditions are minimal as compared to other nations (Buettner, 2012).
The other commonality that is worth noting in these countries with the longest life expectancy is healthy psychological well-being and social relationships. For example, in Japan, Hong Kong, and Andorra, people are much concerned with their social relationships and psychological well-being that leads to a peaceful mind amongst the citizens. In Japan, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Italy, and Andorra, individuals value a sense of purpose in that they create a positive life outlook and are concerned with several social support groups, for example, the moais in Japan (Buettner, 2012).
It is notable that when a healthy social relationship prevails amongst individuals, people within the society are well fit psychologically, which leads to a peaceful mind amongst the population of the respective countries. In countries where people look down upon a healthy social relationship or are not concerned with other individuals’ psychological well-being, their life expectancy ranges from 40 to 45 years of age, especially in men; for example, in Sierra Leone in African continent. Therefore, healthy social relationships and psychological well-being play a significant role in a longer life expectancy amongst the individuals (Buettner, 2012).
The other thing that is prevalent in these countries with the longest life expectancy is easy to access to public health. The countries associated with the longest life expectancy are more concerned with the public health. Under the public health, several key determinants include social factors, policy-making, health services, individual behaviors, and lastly, biology and genetics. Furthermore, social factors are also determined by various aspects that are economic stability, social and community context, built environment and neighborhood, and education. All these aspects incorporated together play a significant role in the public health of a particular country. Japan, Hong Kong, Andorra, and Italy have adequate resources that enable them to meet their daily needs such as local food markets and safe housing (Buettner, 2012).
Additionally, these countries ensure the accessing health care services at an affordable price. It means that even the lowest income earners will be able to get proper medications as expected. Japan is noted as the lowest per capita health care costs state as compared to the most advanced countries of the world such as the United States, and its population is ranked as the healthiest (Marmot, Bell., & Goldblatt, 2013). Moreover, another reason why such nations have a long life expectancy is that insurance policies cover everyone in these countries regarding dental and medical care and drugs. Particularly in Japan, it is notable that citizens pay premiums proportional to their earned income to become part of the insurance pool following their places of residence or work. The aspect that also plays a significant role in these countries’ access to public health is the level of literacy, quality of education, public safety awareness, access to mass media and the current emerging technologies. These features brought together have led to a healthy lifestyle and long life expectancy, accordingly (Marmot, Bell, & Goldblatt, 2013).
The United States of America, despite being one of the wealthiest nations with enormous health care sector expenditures, lags behind on the list of the longest life expectancy countries. The most important reason for this discrepancy is societal inequality. Social inequality, in this case, refers to the differences in income and status of the citizens within the country, which can lead to a shorter life expectancy (Avendano, 2014). In the United States, the issue of social inequality has been experienced for a long time, and it still is. An unequal distribution of income has a significant impact on all members of the society irrespective of the rich or the poor. The issue of unequal distribution of revenue as witnessed in the United States of America has led to numerous social problems such as alcoholism, mental illness, homicides, suicide, violence, and diseases (Kliff, 2013).
A large number of the United States’ inhabitants are prone to violent behaviors. Many possess firearms, some for security purposes while others for illegal activities, leading to the lower U.S life expectancy. An example of the recent gun violence in the United States was the killing of 26 people at an elementary school in Newtown (Ho, 2013). Moreover, there occur approximately ten violent deaths in every 100,000 residents. It has led to several deaths of young people in the United States at an average age below 50. This ratio as compared with other countries in the list leaves the Americans on the top list of gun violence affected countries (Kliff, 2013). The other characteristic that also plays a significant role in lowering the life expectancy in the United States is the eating habits of the nation, which leads to disorders and illnesses (Biltekoff, 2013). Lastly, it is also noted that the Americans have a lower tendency of making visits to the doctors after they get diagnosed with diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart diseases, and it also leads to several reported deaths (Robbins, 2012).
In conclusion, it is notable that several countries including Japan, Austria, Andorra, Italy, and Singapore among others have the longest life expectancy that may extend to a hundred years. The commonalities that are evident in these countries include accessibility to public health services, healthy social responsibility, and psychological well-being. It is also noteworthy that their cultural environment plays a significant role in ensuring life longevity because it considers aspects such as healthy diet and exercise. The United States, despite their massive expenditure on the health sector, lags behind due to some reasons such as the societal inequalities leading to adverse activities such as homicide, suicide, and gun violence.
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