Life expectancy or longevity is a term used to describe the number of years an individual is expected to live after his birth (Ortiz-Ospina, 2017). It is an average calculated for a group of individuals and it is not necessarily true that all of the members of that group will live for that exact number of years after their births. Mostly longevity at birth is calculated, but at later ages also, longevity is relevant. For instance, life expectancy as calculated by the UN in the year 2005, for children of 10 years of age was 63.6 years. This means that 10-year-old children living across the world in 2005 were expected to live around the age of 73.6 years (Ortiz-Ospina, 2017).
Several factors have been seen influencing the life expectancy of an individual, some of which include gender, mortality (the condition of being subjected to death), morbidity (the state of being sick), pre- and post-birth conditions, education and social and economic status of that individual. The longevity of females is generally greater than that of males under similar conditions (Beckman, 2016, May 27). This report focuses on the differences in the life expectancy of people of New Zealand and Japan and the key factors responsible for this difference. Recommendations for increasing life expectancy will also be discussed. Furthermore, the ways by which the Associate Minister of Health (2016) and the World Health Organisation (2017) explained the concept of age-friendly in their respective strategies will also be contrasted.
New Zealand and Japan currently have the life expectancy of 82.36 and 84.67 years respectively (Macrotrends, n.d.). The life expectancy for Japan surpassed that for New Zealand in the year1968 prior to which New Zealand’s was higher (Google Public Data Explorer, 2020). The life expectancy for women and men in New Zealand is 83.2 and 79.5 years respectively. While New Zealanders live for more years when compared to most countries in the world, they have a high rate of cardiovascular diseases including strokes and heart attacks and cancer and within New Zealand, non-Maori people have greater life expectancy than that of Maori (Wright, 2017, January 27).
The rate for both these death causes is very high for New Zealand as a developed nation. As per New Zealand’s heart foundation, cardiovascular diseases alone are responsible for thirty-three per cent of deaths, accounting for 138 mortalities per 100,000 people, which is almost 4 times of that of Japan’s (Wright, 2017). In the year 2017, the estimated life expectancies for Maori women and men were 77.1 and 73.0 years respectively, which were much lower than the nation’s average of 81.4 years at that time. Maori people have a predominant rate of deaths due to cancer, where lung cancer tops the list of causes for the deaths of Maori women, due to their high smoking habits (Wright, 2017). In addition to this, suicide, motor vehicular accidents, diabetes and breast cancer are also among the leading causes of deaths in New Zealand (Ministry of Health, 2018).
On the other hand, Japanese women and men live respectively for 87.1 and 81.1 years on an average (Pitofsky, 2018) and 26 per cent of Japanese population ages 65 years or more (Scommegna, 2019). There are various factors responsible for their tremendously long lives, which includes both low morbidity and mortality rates and good social determinants of health. i.e access to lifestyle facilities. The primary reason for Japan’s high life expectancy is the diet intake of Japanese people, mainly consisting balanced lean diet carrying a low risk of arteriosclerosis and cancers including omega-3 rich heart-friendly fish, whole grains, tofu, seafood and vegetables. Western processed foods responsible for various health issues are not consumed by Japanese people (Pitofsky, 2018, August 5).
In 2005, the Japanese government developed dietary guidelines adherence to which was reported to lower the overall risk of mortality and cardio and cerebrovascular illnesses (Kurotani et al, 2016). In addition to diet, the healthcare system of Japan also plays a crucial role in the long lives of people there. Japan has a universal healthcare facility which is cheap and available for all. Japan provides a total of 10 per cent of its GDP (Gross Domestic Product) to this system which has another norm of regular/routine check-ups by government authorities through mass screening in schools, workplaces or in communities (Age Watch, 2016).
Furthermore, Japanese people are involved in strong social cohesion which is believed to be positively influencing their overall well being by giving positive attitude towards their lives and keeping stress/depression at bay, and therefore, the suicidal rate in Japan is low. Lastly, Japanese people majorly commute via public transport in their everyday lives rather than by cars giving them relatively more exposure to physical activities (Age Watch, 2016).
Considering the shreds of evidence responsible for the exceptionally long lives of Japanese people, it can be discerned that a measure could be taken to exacerbate the life expectancy for people in any country including New Zealand. Primarily, the government of New Zealand should also develop some policies or guidelines to promote healthy diet intake by the people and reduced lifestyle habits responsible for health complications such as high smoking rates leading to deaths due to cancer. Secondly, New Zealand government should try to improve the healthcare facilities present in the country by either providing a greater proportion of their GDP to the healthcare system or by providing cheap/free facilities for both Maori and non-Maori people who cannot currently afford them.
Since the majority of deaths in New Zealand are due to cancer and cardiovascular ailments, for both of which treatment is possible if diagnosed and treated timely (World Health Organisation, 2018), regular check-ups should be made a norm for New Zealanders in order to increase the early detection of these disorders in patients to give them a better life. Moreover, the government should make people realise the importance of physical activities and exercises by the means of campaigns or advertisements because sedentary can itself become a major factor of health issues, such as obesity leading to hypertension and diabetes. In addition to this, campaigns or advertisements should also be made to give New Zealanders a positive perception about their lives as suicide is also a leading cause of deaths in New Zealand.
Both healthy ageing strategy and global strategy and action plan on ageing and health were aimed at improving the ageing process and to provide sustainability to the older adults (Associate Minister of Health, 2016; World Health Organisation, 2017). Here, the former was launched to provide an age-friendly environment specifically to the ageing population in New Zealand whereas the latter one was implemented to make sure that every individual across the globe gets the opportunity to lead a healthy long life. As the population of New Zealand began to live unprecedented longer lives, their government initiated the healthy ageing strategy to make sure to provide them with a well-ageing considering the different needs of older people (Associate Minister of Health, 2016).
Their concept of age-friendly atmosphere included providing older adults with connectable and respectable surroundings where they can feel valued. They described the term as a community in which people were committed to environments that are physically attainable and improved the quality of life, especially in the later years of lives. These communities are mostly led by elderly people, along with the common council people who work together to provide skills and knowledge required for healthy ageing to the older people. Their ultimate goal is to make them happy and resilient. Furthermore, they make sure that aged population has a voice too, which can be heard, including for older people with disabilities such as dementia and marginalised groups of elderly people (Associate Minister of Health, 2016). The concept of age-friendly along with its execution gained conspicuous momentum internationally, starting from the pace gained in New Zealand.
Considering the fact that by the year 2050, one in every 5 individuals on the earth will be of 60 years of age or older, summing up to a total of 2 billion worldwide people, World Health Organisation (2017) started a strategy to promote healthy age-friendly atmospheres. The primary objective of this strategy was to provide healthy ageing in every country by providing environments which were age-friendly to dispose of the health systems according to the needs of elderly populations, providing a long-term and equitable care to them. It also aimed to ameliorate the measures and pre-existing research on ageing.
These objectives reflect various inter-sectoral impacts on the process of ageing in order to take actions with more focus by the social care and healthcare sectors. Here the environment is used as a context where people inhabit in their lives and an age-friendly environment fosters healthy ageing by establishing an internal capability throughout the lifetime of individuals, thereby giving them the ability to do the things they value. Age-friendly efforts can help people, especially older ones; enhance their functionality range to fulfil their basic requirements such as to remain mobile, to be able to grow and learn and to make their own decisions (World Health Organisation, 2017).
As ageing is an inevitable phase of life that every individual has to go through in his lifetime, living the later years of life as a healthy elderly adult can utterly enhance the overall wellbeing of an individual, which ultimately will increase the longevity of that person. Similarly, the strategies initiated by both the Associate Minister of Health (2016) and the World Health Organisation (2017) aimed at improving the quality of life in these later stages of an individual’s life. This improvement objective can certainly be achieved by providing an age-friendly environment to the older populations.
Elder people who are able to connect, learn and fulfil their own needs can lead a healthier and longer life. An age-friendly environment seems to make the surrounding conditions appropriate for these elderly people where they can feel happy and valued. Moreover, this achievement aims at reducing the barriers for older adults to participate in the society to keep them socially, mentally and physically fit in order to empower them to learn the skills to take responsibility of their health. This initiative can help attain an overall better quality of life.
Considering the meaning expectancy or longevity is and on what factors this depends, it can be concluded that life expectancy of an individual is not pre-determined. It depends on the surrounding attributions but it can also be increased by taking proper suitable measures. Just like the people of Japan, people from any country can attain a long life by taking the required actions such as eating properly balanced and healthy diet, not making smoking a regular habit, exercising regularly, and being happy by not incorporating oneself into any sort of activity that can cause stress/depression. The government of a country also plays an important role as a deciding factor for the life expectancy of its population.
Government policies and guidelines can encourage people to do things needed for a better well being. The healthcare facilities available in a particular region can help the related population to grow and nurture for a longer duration of their lives. Furthermore, ageing is an inevitable factor and plays a major role in increasing longevity as living a healthy and prosperous life during the later stages of life can certainly improve the overall life expectancy. Therefore, to give a healthy ageing experience to the elderly people worldwide, various strategies have been initiated internationally.
Age Watch. (2016). Why do people live longer in Japan? Retrieved from https://www.agewatch.net/secrets-of-longevity/japanese-longevity/
Associate Minister of Health. (2016). Healthy ageing strategy. Retrieved from https://www.health.govt.nz/system/files/documents/publications/healthy-ageing-strategy_june_2017.pdf
Beckman, K. (2016, May 27). 9 factors that affect longevity. Retrieved from https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2016/05/27/9-factors-that-affect-longevity/
Google Public Data Explorer. (2020). World development indicator.
Kurotani, K., Akter, S., Kashino, I., Goto, A., Mizoue, T., Noda, M., Sasazuki, N. & Tsugane, S. (2016). Quality of diet and mortality among Japanese men and women: Japan Public Health Center based prospective study. British Medical Journal, 352(1209). https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i1209
Macrotrends. (n.d.). Japan life expectancy 1950-2020. Retrieved from https://www.macrotrends.net/countries/JPN/japan/life-expectancy
Ministry of Health. (2018). Major causes of death. Retrieved from https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/populations/maori-health/tatau-kahukura-maori-health-statistics/nga-mana-hauora-tutohu-health-status-indicators/major-causes-death
Ortiz-Ospina, E. (2017). “Life expecrtancy”-what does this actually mean? Retrieved from https://ourworldindata.org/life-expectancy-how-is-it-calculated-and-how-should-it-be-interpreted
Pitofsky, M. (2018, August 5). What countries have the longest life expectancies? Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2018/07/27/life-expectancies-2018-japan-switzerland-spain/848675002/
Scommegna, P. (2019). Which country has the oldest population? It depends on how you define ‘old’. Retrieved from https://www.prb.org/which-country-has-the-oldest-population/
World Health Organisation. (2017) Global strategy and action plan on ageing and health. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/ageing/WHO-GSAP-2017.pdf?ua=1 World Health Organisation. (2018). Cancer. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/cancer
Wright, T. (2017, January 27). How long do New Zealanders live for? Retrieved from https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2017/01/how-long-do-new-zealanders-live-for.html
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