Why does Hong Kong have the world’s highest life expectancy?

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Hong Kong’s life expectancy has seen a steady increase over the past half-century. For the 7th year and counting, both women and men in Hong Kong have attained the world’s highest life expectancy. According to World Bank, the life expectancy for men and women in Hong Kong stands at 82.7 years and 88.1 years respectively. 

So, what’s the secret behind Hong Kong’s high life expectancy? Experts agree that access to public healthcare coupled with the promotion of healthy living for all ages contributes to longevity in the region. Here are some interesting points:

  1. Tobacco control has helped Hongkongers live longer, according to a recent Lancet study. Researchers concluded that Hong Kong’s longevity is attributed to the lowest mortality of cardiovascular diseases in both men and women, as well as one of the lowest mortalities of cancer among women. These low mortality rates are, in turn, due to Hong Kong having one of the world’s lowest smoking prevalences. “Successful tobacco control has allowed Hong Kong’s life expectancy to exceed populations around the world. This is an important finding to potentially save the largest number of lives in Hong Kong and worldwide, precisely because the policy solutions are well rehearsed and directly attributable to longevity,” said Professor Gabriel Leung, Dean of Medicine from The University of Hong Kong.
  2. Some experts point to the healthy diet here, which basically consists of grains (rice) with fish, vegetables and meat chopped up into dishes for sharing, rather than eaten as whole portions. Even Hong Kong desserts are healthy, often made of nuts, tofu or beans, fresh fruit and sesame seeds.
  3. Connectivity in Hong Kong is commendable, with easy access to public transportation and the proximity (often walking distance) of restaurants, parks and public facilities. The city ranks first for “enabling environments,” which facilitates a better quality of life.
  4. In 2017, Stanford University published a study called the Activity Inequality Project. It analyzed mobile phone data from 111 countries and discovered that Hongkongers topped the list in walking. The average Hongkonger takes 6,880 steps per day, which is roughly 2,100 more than the average American.
  5. Hong Kong is a relatively safe city. It is ranked the 8th safest city in the world. Its geographical location with a subtropical climate does not give rise to frequent extreme weather. It also boasts a public healthcare system, where older residents receive priority for hospital care and most care is paid from taxation.
  6. It is estimated that 70% of Hong Kong residents over the age of 70 were born in mainland China and came to Hong Kong in search of better opportunities. Studies show that these residents are physically and psychologically stronger than their counterparts remaining on the mainland. In the early 1960s and ’70s, Hong Kong saw an influx of highly motivated individuals move to the territory. These individuals have contributed to the aging of Hong Kong’s population over the last 20 years. Their healthy active lifestyles have helped them achieve a long life expectancy.
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SOURCES: https://www.med.hku.hk/en/news/press/20210906-hk-longevity-tobacco-control



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