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Do the People of Hong Kong Hold the Secret to Long Life?

Picture of Matthew Keegan
Updated: 6 March 2018
Recent studies have revealed that Hong Kong has the longest life expectancy in the world. But just what’s helping the population live longer?

Life expectancy in Hong Kong is now said to be the longest in the world, beating other ‘blue zones’ (regions with the oldest and healthiest people in the world) such as Japan and Italy.

According to researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, on average, men in Hong Kong live for 81.3 years and women for 87.3 years – longer than anywhere else.

So what’s occurring? Has Hong Kong found the elixir of life? Experts have pointed to several factors as to why Hongkongers might be outliving the rest of us.

Accessible city

Dr. Timothy Kwok, professor of geriatric medicine at the Chinese University of Hong Kong told CNN that Hong Kong is a very accessible city, even if you are a senior citizen: ‘You can easily walk to your nearest shops or shopping centre to get what you need.’ He also added that, ‘Hong Kong ranks first for enabling environments. That may explain our longevity.’

Hong Kong is a very accessible city
Hong Kong is a very accessible city | © AndyLeungHK / Pixabay

Active elderly population

Many elderly in Hong Kong live relatively active lifestyles way into their senior years. Take an early morning stroll anywhere in the city and you’re likely to encounter elderly people doing tai chi exercises. They are well known for being active and supple at a level that defies their age.

Early morning tai chi class
Early morning tai chi class | © Craig Nagy / Flickr

Strong survival instinct

Other experts believe that it’s the survival mentality of Hong Kong residents that is key to the city’s ‘life expectancy miracle’. Researchers estimate that 70% of Hong Kong residents over the age of 70 were born in mainland China and came over in search of better opportunities. It’s believed that these migrants had to be very fit ‘like triathletes’ in order to survive the journey, both physically and psychologically.

Other contributing factors are said to be access to quality healthcare; Hong Kong’s comfortable climate (neither too hot or cold); a well-balanced diet (similar to the Mediterranean diet – comprised of lots of fresh fish, fruit and vegetables); close family structure (providing both financial and social support as people get older); and access to well-maintained natural areas like mountains and beaches.

Hong Kong has well-maintained natural areas
Hong Kong has well-maintained natural areas | © Max Pixel

Above all, researchers believe that better health care, improved childhood care, economic migration and reduced smoking rates among women compared with other parts of the wold, resulting in fewer smoking-related diseases, are likely to have been the most influential factors on Hong Kong’s improved life expectancy over the past decade.