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kuchikomi

To be healthy, live in the big city

35 Comments

Almost everyone is familiar with the famous old fable about the town mouse and the country mouse, attributed to Aesop and widely disseminated by other storytellers. The country mouse, who, at the urging of his more urbane counterpart, visits the city, finds that the pleasures of high living incur too many risks, and is led to conclude, "I'd rather gnaw a bean than be gnawed by continual fear."

Human beings, of course, are not rodents. But occasionally the debate arises over how the stress and pollution of life in a large metropolis can drive men to an early grave. Or conversely, that the clean environment and demanding physical activity in the countryside will help prolong life.

Utilizing demographic research from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, Nikkan Gendai (Feb 11) sets out to debunk such beliefs. According to a 2005 survey on male longevity broken down by district, the area with the top longevity in Japan was Aoba Ward in Yokohama City, whose average stood at 81.7 years. This was followed by four more suburbs of Tokyo: Aso Ward in Kawasaki City with 81.7 years, Mitaka City in Tokyo (81.4); Kokubunji City, Tokyo (81.4); and Tokyo's Nerima Ward (81.2).

In previous demographic surveys, Okinawa and Nagano prefectures had scored at or near the top, but in the 2005 survey, rural parts of the country were clearly outclassed by residential areas of major cities and the suburbs.

"A person's longevity is strongly affected by his economic and physical vitality," author Shoji Shinkai, author of several books on health topics and operator of a health clinic, tells Nikkan Gendai. "The top-ranked areas are bed towns, where many retirees who formerly had worked for major companies are living. They lead fulfilling lives, are well informed about health issues, and are able to take control over their lives."

"Another factor," adds Shinkai, "is that compared with people in the countryside, the physical vitality of urbanites has been improving. Salarymen working in major urban areas are more physically active than one might expect. They climb stairs and use their muscles to hang on to straps while standing during their morning commute. And they walk a lot, too. When the elderly overexert themselves, they become rickety. Since people living in cities only exert themselves to a limited degree, they are better able to maintain their vitality."

The article then introduces the case of a certain Mr A, age 69, a former white-collar worker at a Tokyo think tank. His wife having already passed away, he moved to a village in a mountainous area of Nagano Prefecture. Since Mr A had found it difficult to form close relationships even in the city, he felt that the rustic life of a hermit would present no problems.

However, his physical condition weakened and he eventually found he was unable to care for his own basic needs. Just to go shopping or to visit a doctor, he had to drive a car. But his vision declined, and no longer able to drive on his own, he had to rely on neighbors for his transportation. Meal preparation being troublesome, he would only prepare one simple dish and a bowl of soup.

The poor diet further exacerbated his physical decline, and now Mr A is no longer able to walk unassisted.

Now contrast Mr A's situation with your typical town mouse.

"In the city, people have a high interest in eating out, and they get lots of variety in their diet, including Japanese, Western and Chinese cuisine," says the aforementioned Shinkai. "While it is said by some that eating healthy, simple meals is conducive to longevity, I disagree."

Why? Apparently seniors' bodies have less ability to absorb nutrients, so cutting back on volume through a Spartan diet can contribute to malnutrition. Then the blood vessels weaken, and the brain, lacking nutrients, suffers a decline in cognitive functions.

So to be healthy, stay in the city, the tabloid's readers are advised.

© Japan Today

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

35 Comments
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I think much more research needs to be done. Personally, the sticks bore me, but others can be happy there.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

average is more than 80 years old for males in all those wards? (we know females are even longer) we're screwed...

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I love articles like these...

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Aso Ward in Kawasaki City is actually pronounced "Asao". Many people make this common error. I'm sure the ward office there will tell you all about it :) Also, Asao-ku is not a suburb of Tokyo as it is in Kanagawa prefecture... <en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asao-ku,_Kawasaki> Interesting article by the way.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Asao-ku is not a suburb of Tokyo as it is in Kanagawa prefecture

If it's 20 minutes by express train from Shinjuku, I'd call it a tokyo Suburb no matter what prefecture it's in.

1 ( +4 / -2 )

American Redwoods live in the country to be hundreds of years old.

Length of life is down to genes and nothing else......

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

A Japanese lifespan is the longest in the world even though big cities can stress many people. This is due to the perfect traditional diet with much soy and fish, and a lack of guilt based morality that causes depression.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

j4p4nFTW

A Japanese lifespan is the longest in the world even though big cities can stress many people.

Actually Japan no longer has the longest life expectancy, you used to but your now ranked 4th in the world.

This is due to the perfect traditional diet with much soy and fish, and a lack of guilt based morality that causes depression.

I actually do agree with this statement though, especially the bit about lack of guilt based morality. Thats definately one thing you dont worry about in this nation......

0 ( +3 / -3 )

"...Salarymen working in major urban areas are more physically active than one might expect. They climb stairs and use their muscles to hang on to straps while standing during their morning commute. And they walk a lot, too...."

And yet:

"When the elderly overexert themselves, they become rickety. Since people living in cities only exert themselves to a limited degree, they are better able to maintain their vitality.”

So, do they exert themselves much more than we think, or only to a limited degree? As usual, this kuchikomi article, or at least the people quoted from the study, are contradictory and make generalizations that could apply to anything, anyone, anywhere. They take Mr. A, who moves to the boonies and gets sick. They then contrast this with a 'typical town mouse', who is healthy. Of COURSE someone who is sick is going to be sicker than someone who is healthy! That's not relative to place!! How about taking the town mouse who lives in an urban high-rise and is very sick vs. the country mouse who is very healthy? Nah, gotta pad the study.

And guess what -- business people who live in the country can ALSO exert themselves a lot more (than one might expect); even more than the town mouse, if you will. And yes, they can 'exercise muscles by hanging on to a strap on the crowded commute' even.

Ludicrous study. The only thing that would make sense is a comparative study on when people GET sick in both urban and rural areas. Obviously there would be a higher concentration of clinics and medical centers available in urban areas in contrast with rural. While the article touches on the idea of stress in the big city, it does not study it in detail, or nearly enough as it is. What's the mental health in both areas like? How about suicides? Crime?

j4p4nFTW: "A Japanese lifespan is the longest in the world even though big cities can stress many people. This is due to the perfect traditional diet with much soy and fish, and a lack of guilt based morality that causes depression."

Agree with the first part, which is why in the next 20 years the average lifespan of Japanese will fall in the ranks from first (sometimes second) to about where the US and other Western nations are, if not lower. The average diet of most people today is not at all similar to that of, let's say, Okinawans 70 years ago. The current centennarians did indeed grow up on quite a healthy diet, comparatively speaking. But these days in Okinawa people drive their cars to the local convenience store even, and have more junkfood available to them than any other part of Japan. There's also a lot more stress on rush in lifestyle for young people today up to people who are in or nearing their sixties compared to before.

As for lack of guilt, I agree that feeling guilty or upset can cause a lot of problems physically, but a 'lack of guilt based morality' is not necessarily a good thing when people are guilty of something -- that's just denial, and can lead to a person snapping later on if not dealt with.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Definitely small towns for me. One with easy access to mountains and the sea is best. From my place, I can view an amazing night sky full of stars about 20 minutes from my place (almost as good as what I see in Canada) and I can be relaxing on a deserted beach in about 30 minutes. What else does one really need?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

What else does one really need?

Totally will answer that one PW, BEER!!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I bet if you adjust for income, location is irrelevant or less relevant. Rich live longer, and rich generally live in the city or near a city.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Cletus.

Actually Japan no longer has the longest life expectancy, you used to but your now ranked 4th in the world.

Any ranking that does not have Japan as the #1 is flawed and should be ignored. We know it to be the longest lifespan in the world.

-9 ( +2 / -11 )

j4p4nFTW

Actually Japan no longer has the longest life expectancy, you used to but your now ranked 4th in the world. Any ranking that does not have Japan as the #1 is flawed and should be ignored. We know it to be the longest lifespan in the world.

Ah so you only listen to flawed Japanese rankings that have you the best at everything. I understand.... Maybe you can explain that theory to the countries in 1st, 2nd and 3rd place then.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Totally will answer that one PW, BEER!!

Good answer, but why are you talking to yourself? I don't know if that is so healthy.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Hahaha, Ben, no worries. I'm at work doing something I absolutely hate doing and beer is what has been on my mind today, all day so talking to myself is probably not too bad. When I start enjoying the work is when I'll start worrying. Have a good cold one tonight mate.

Cheers,

0 ( +1 / -1 )

j4p4nFTW: "Ah so you only listen to flawed Japanese rankings that have you the best at everything. I understand.... Maybe you can explain that theory to the countries in 1st, 2nd and 3rd place then."

Yeah, because nothing you say, and certainly no Japanese survey, is flawed! :) I mean, certainly the consensus before last, where THOUSANDS of people listed to be alive, many centenarians, wasn't false, right? even AFTER it was proven many were in fact dead (and in some cases family members just collecting the benefits). Nope! nothing flawed there.

Regardless, Cletus is correct. Japan has more often than not been ranked as No.#1, once in a while being overtaken by another nation for a year until hitting the top again. In 2011, however, Japan was ranked #4 or even #5, with Macau, Monaco, and a couple of other small nations (one an island, I think) ranking higher (Monaco MUCH higher, in fact). Japan dropped from something like an overall lifespan average of 82.6 years to 82.2.

And regardless, this is not a case of 'winning' or something like that, so unless quality of life is high for all those people living beyond the average, it doesn't really mean squat, and if you think about the burden created and that will continue to exist for Japan as society ages, having one of the highest lifespans is more a bane than a bonus.

I also agree with the poster above who stated that it's more likely based on income, not necessarily location. A person living in poverty in the city is most likely NOT going to have a better life and health than a rich person in 'rural' Japan.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

So to be healthy, stay in the city, the tabloid’s readers are advised.

the biggest lie in the world

to start, women ,,,because of their every month period, live longer than man

second, this ariticle is because those old people , probably live in retirement homes or can not longer walk,

yes,,,guys we are screwed,,,women,,enjoy life,,,,,learn a new language, conquer fears, tell the world,,

Guys, die young!!!

but,,,living old like my neighbor,,,its not life,,,

give and take situation!!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Well, the CIA Factbook ranks Japan #5, but the top four are not states, but city-states, Monaco, Macao, SanMarino, and Andorra. So,there's at least an asterisk there somewhere.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I think "live in the big city" in the headline is a bit misleading. Aoba-ku, Yokohama, Asao-ku Kawasaki are well away from the densely-populated central hubs of their cities, and Mitaka and Kokubunji are more suburban cities. Nerima might be in the "23 specials" but nobody would mistake it for Shinjuku, Chiyoda or Chuo - it's definitely more suburban. I'd conclude that living within reach of urban amenities but with a little bit of breathing space is probably the best balance.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

In previous demographic surveys, Okinawa and Nagano prefectures had scored at or near the top, but in the 2005 survey, rural parts of the country were clearly outclassed by residential areas of major cities and the suburbs.

Part of that could be that in the past, young people from the sticks moved to the cities leaving the oldies behind, thus lowering the average age in the cities and raising it in the inaka. Now with less work available more young people are either doing a U-turn or not going up to the city in the first place, while those who have grown old in the city have lost the economic clout to be able to move after retirement so that the average urban age is rising (No figures to back this up, just what I get from observation).

On the whole, people who like city life will do better in the city, while those who prefer a slower pace will do better in the inaka. If I had to spend my old age in the city I don't think I would do so well. Life certainly wouldn't be as enjoyable, with all that steel and glass and concrete and all those other human bodies. I'd be miserable.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Agree with cleo. I used to live in many cities around the world but I am glad to live in the sticks. This article fails to prove that living in the sticks makes you more creative than living in the city where everything is ready made. I can't imagine why noise and pollution could be better for anyone.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Sometimes I lives in the country

Sometimes I lives in town

Sometimes I haves a great notion

To jump into the river an' drown

Goodnight, Irene -Leadbelly

0 ( +0 / -0 )

j4p4nFTWFeb. 15, 2012 - 05:32PM JST

Any ranking that does not have Japan as the #1 is flawed and should be ignored. We know it to be the longest lifespan in the world.

I am ignorant, so I think it to be the longest lifespan in the world.
-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Tokyo and other Japanese metro areas are very less stressful than American or European ones, unless you choose to live in loud and messy Shibuya (which means you probably have a whole range of other problems, anyway).

You never have to watch your back or be alert when going out in the dark. Also, it is very easy to pick up the daily essentials whenever you feel like it.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Oops, forgot to say - in a country like Japan, I would never want to live outside the big cities, as the usual drawbacks of cities I mentioned just aren't there. In Europe or the USA, I'd consider to move to the sticks, but in Japan it's just not necessary unless you're poor.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

HanzNFranz: I'm interested in why you wouldn't want to live in the countryside in Japan but it would be ok in the USA or Europe? I am from Canada and lived out in the boonies. I hated it. I had to have a car to drive to the next town which was an hour away with absolutely nothing in between. However, here, I live in the ''sticks''. I am a 10 minute drive to the train station and 45 minutes to Kyoto from there. Also, the food here is fresh and delicious. I am not poor, and in fact can save even more money due to where I am.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@sakurala Oh I don't know about Canada - I would not want to live there. But in Japan, the countryside is very boring and shabby for the most part. Not very attractive.

In Japan's big cities, the problems aren't there (crime, dirt) so I don't see a reason to not live in a big city. This is just my personal preference.

In the US or Europe, I could imagine with all the problems in cities to live in the sticks, but I wouldn't "love" it.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Rurality has its own risks. Farming jobs can be hazardous, including vehicle accidents and exposure to agricultural chemicals. I'd like to see rural vs. suburb vs. urban, but also factoring access to proper medical care.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This is due to the perfect traditional diet with much soy and fish, and a lack of guilt based morality that causes depression.

I actually do agree with this statement though, especially the bit about lack of guilt based morality. Thats definately one thing you dont worry about in this nation......

Somebody's been reading too much Ruth Benedict. (Or maybe not enough to realize how clueless she was.)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I thought the conclusion to Aesop's fable was that there are different strokes for different folks. That being said, I guess now those in the country side should slow down a bit and not hurry to get the city folk their goods.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Okay for one year only, 2005, life expectancy was higher in three city places than the normal country locales? One year?? Nice sample size.

This isn't how statistics, or even the scientific method works people.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Kuchikomi has made all the wrong assumptions.

What about people who WORK everyday in the countryside, they live longer.

What about big cities where people drive their cars everywhere? They get absolutely no exercise.

Constantly changing your diet is horrible for your system. You body has the stress of never being able to rely on a particular stream of nutrients as they are constantly changing. The okinawans live longest because they eat a consistent diet of sweet potatoes.

This is lying with statistics, and fillig in the gaps with assumptions. Terrible reporting.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

thats nonsense

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The reason for Big Metropolis longevity (Singapore, Makao, Hong Kong, NYC) is the same as in the mountaineous Andora and San Marino, ambient hypoxia a.k.a. reduced oxygen concentration in the air(less than 21%> about 19%) and increase of eHIF-1a factor, activating AMPK and related targets, heme oxygenase(HO), SIRT, eNOS, etc. implicated as life extending in all species.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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