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Reasons to be cheerful: 1, 2, 3

21 Comments
By Isabella Woods

A recent study in the Lancet outlines the reason why Japan’s population has the longest life expectancy in the world, a staggering increase of 30 years from the expected lifespan in 1947. The study highlights three major contributing factors, and a model that could be followed by other nations wishing for their countrymen to hang around a bit longer.

So is it yearly cruises, computer games and karaoke that keep us so healthy? No. It’s because we work at it.

Work Hard, Play Hard

The Japanese take their health seriously, both individually and in government. Government-provided health screening is available for all and, crucially, is available within both school and workplace settings. This means the chances of picking up potentially serious diseases is maximized and the chance of individuals slipping through the net is minimized. It also instills a culture of health screening, which is enthusiastically embraced by the individual. It is not uncommon for business people to take a few days off for a full health screening check. A short stay in hospital for a thorough health check up can be seen as an investment.

Heavy Investment

The improvement in Japanese healthcare began back in the 1950s, when policymakers began investing in public health by introducing a number of radical measures. With the introduction of free screening and treatment for tuberculosis and universal vaccinations for children, disease rates began to drop. Not afraid to intervene in the lives of their citizens, the government looked next at reducing salt intake, and campaigned accordingly. Investment in drugs for tackling "the silent killer" of high blood pressure saw death rates drop. The introduction of universal health insurance in 1961 was another great step forward.

You Are What You Eat

Another factor in the improved longevity of the Japanese is their diet, which plays a huge role in the health of the nation. Low in fat, and nutritionally balanced, there could not be a much more healthy model for the world to follow. And the improvement in living standards over the last few years has seen a correlating improvement in the quality of food available to consumers.

Cleanliness and Health

A culture of cleanliness is cited as the third major factor in public health. Japanese fastidiousness is renowned and has its roots in Shinto. The tradition of purifying the body and mind before meeting others means that there is less chance of passing on germs and infection. The climate also ensures that there is a necessary attention to personal hygiene.

There May Be Trouble Ahead

So is this utopian vision set to continue? Are the Japanese so far ahead in their healthcare provision that they will lead the world for decades into the future? It is unlikely, unless they tackle a number of problems. Firstly, with improved longevity comes the risk of an aging population outweighing working and productive members of society who have to pay for the healthcare. Currently, the statistics show that 23% of the population is over 65, but estimates suggest that that could soar to 40% by 2050, without a balancing increase in the birthrate. In fact, Japan’s population is decreasing and this is a trend that seems set to continue.

Disasters

The impact of the magnitude 9.0 earthquake on March 11, 2011, the subsequent tsunami and the nuclear leak at Fukushima has shaken the Japanese social order, welfare and healthcare system to the core. There is a distrust of authority that did not exist before, as people acknowledge the flawed advice their government issued at various times during the crisis. An increase in stress and workload is the last thing the country needed, since one of the few areas of health concern surrounded alcoholism and suicide, as the hardworking population succumbed to work induced stress.

Figures for unemployment are rising in the wake of the disasters too, which is known to be another cause of these particular mental health problems. The population is one that still smokes heavily, and that trend shows no sign of going into reverse either. Finally, it is the economic situation in Japan that is the biggest threat the country faces. Universal healthcare provision for all comes at a high price.

The Good News

A baby girl born in Japan today can expect to live to 86 and a boy to nearly 80. For today’s new parents, this can only bring comfort. Japan knows what it needs to do to ensure this figure stays the same. It just needs to keep doing it.

© Japan Today

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

21 Comments
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Respect to Ian Dury too, for music that just keeps on giving. I appreciate the succinctness of this article - nicely written.

3 ( +2 / -0 )

I was told that the health screening was compulsory. It that case it's nothing to cheer about. It's Orwellian intrusion into people's personal space. Especially now since they measure your waist and if you don't meet their guidelines they tell you what you can and cannot eat. Not even the Soviet Union went that far.

It's not compulsory. Orwellian and Soviet Union? Come on, save your energy and us the misplaced sensation. And no one tells you what you can or cannot eat. They just give well-meant friendly advice.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I am happy to have a caring family, good friends and neighbours and good health.I have sufficeint,food and a home, basicly everything I need, plus a surplus to share. How long I live is of no consequence, as I have learned it is the quality of life that is important, rather then the length of it.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Has the writer even been to Japan? Looks like the whole article is based on government brochures and handouts, travel guides and JTB books...

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Respect to Ian Dury too, for music that just keeps on giving

Yes!

Reasons to be cheerful, 1 2 3

A bit of grin and bear it,

A bit of come and share it

You're welcome, we can spare it

Yellow socks

Too short to be haughty,

too nutty to be naughty

Going on 40

No electric shocks

-Ian Dury ( & The Blockheads )

2 ( +2 / -0 )

"low in fat" ( the Japanese diet )

Ho ho ho! Tonkatsu? Menchi katsu? Ramen? Ebi / ika / kaki fry? I could go on.

Maybe ketchup on the tonkatsu would help? Hee hee!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I am happy every day and every night that I am not 6 feet under! Just happy to be ALIVE! YEAH!!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

This article seems to be an illusion of what Japan used to be.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I always wonder about the Japanese food and "you are what you eat"? Since many Japanese eat plenty of combini bentos and often eat out at cheap family restaurants, does that mean that they are like such meals? Honestly, the healthiest food is that which you prepare for yourself, where you know exactly what you have put in. I do not see at any rate, how this applies to the Japanese people I know.

Oh, before I forget it. Public toilets without soap are not a sign of cleanliness. Thankfully, you can meet people here with a nod or bow instead of a handshake.

There is a big difference between the urban and the rural lifestyles which will clearly show up in the life-expectancies in the next decades.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Garbage is a problem especially during those longer whole country holidays where everyone climbs in their car and sits in it for hours on end.

I put my garbage out. No way am I letting it fester in my mansion.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Indeed, Japan has very high public hygiene standards. Much higher than the other developed nations. But...what do you think of people keeping bags of stinky garbage in their tiny apartment for days, sometimes for weeks? Why not just put a container outside with a lock so cats or drunks won't pick the garbage until the garbage truck comes? So it is OK to keep all these bacteria in close proximity to your elderly parents or little children , but not OK to be away from them on the street in a tightly closed container, which would block the smell? Obviously cleaningness is only superficial.

Trash collection in Japan, regrettably, is still, even now in the 21st century, in a primitive stage. Trash containers are only in place by private contractors for the industry. Citizens just pile up their bags on designated days on corners, to be ravaged by crows and other predators, before the 'organized' crews drive by in their stinking vehicles. In many places, though, the local communities have built their own cages or bought small containers for the residents to lock away their trash. Recyclable trash is hunted by a horde of private, illegal collectors in ancient, noisy, polluting vehicles. Complaints to the city, wards, are useless. These kinds of things remind me I am living in an Asian country.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I always wonder about the Japanese food and "you are what you eat"? Since many Japanese eat plenty of combini bentos and often eat out at cheap family restaurants, does that mean that they are like such meals?

You see what is visible to you, which is a fraction of what really lies beyond.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I am surprised the "sho ga nai" attitude was not mentioned as a factor. Of course it may not be the ability to let go contributing to long life in Japan. It may simply the miserable, whiney curmudgeon attitude that puts so many westerners in their graves early. This board has a lot of comments from people who seem destined to do themselves via their own bitterness. Can't say I will miss them.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"Not afraid to intervene in the lives of their citizens, the government looked next at reducing salt intake, and campaigned accordingly." So why is Japanese food so salty? Many Japanese have told me that 12gm per day is ok. In Britain six is now considered too much.

Anyway, what is more important, length of life or quality of life?

Funny, I always associated Ian Drury with Sex and Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Figures for unemployment are rising in the wake of the disasters too, which is known to be another cause of these particular mental health problems. The population is one that still smokes heavily, and that trend shows no sign of going into reverse either.

When was this article written?? Just after WW2?? Unemployment has gone down from about 4.7% to 4.1% since March, and smoking rates have been dropping for 16 consecutive years. Did the author completely make this article up or just most of it?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Stinky garbage and rural benjos aside, we have socialized medicine in Japan. Eat your hearts out American conservatives. We'll out outlive you. Our grandmothers will out live you.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Cleanlessness and health? Has this writer ever travelled on the tokyo train system?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

The Japanese take their health seriously, both individually and in government. Government-provided health screening is available for all and, crucially, is available within both school and workplace settings. This means the chances of picking up potentially serious diseases is maximized and the chance of individuals slipping through the net is minimized

Disagree. Japanese tend to overlook their health problems and to favor work instead. People with chronic diseases are treated unfairly (kindly denied jobs, because "taihen deshou", moved to low responcibility and low pay positions, bullied into quiting for not being able to cope up with the pressure and hard work in the company). I've heard this from first hand, from a disabled person, an activist for the rights of the disabled people.As for the annual screenings, I've been through such farce. For all these years they never picked my kidney stones nor my severe anemia or my gald problems and several other incurring infections. They just fill in their forms and-next, next.

Cleanliness and Health

Indeed, Japan has very high public hygiene standards. Much higher than the other developed nations. But...what do you think of people keeping bags of stinky garbage in their tiny apartment for days, sometimes for weeks? Why not just put a container outside with a lock so cats or drunks won't pick the garbage until the garbage truck comes? So it is OK to keep all these bacteria in close proximity to your elderly parents or little children , but not OK to be away from them on the street in a tightly closed container, which would block the smell?Obviously cleaningness is only superficial.

A baby girl born in Japan today can expect to live to 86 and a boy to nearly 80.

Unless they starve themselves with the obsession to be thin(BTW,do you know since when is this obsession with being thin in Japan. Since the Middle ages, when ordinary people experienced severe foor shortages, and looked for thin women, because being thin meant they don't eat much.So now we are slaving to a Medieval standard). Or commit suicide-mental health, anyone?Or bury themselves in work and fail to notice (or just gaman) an ilness, until it's too late.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I was told that the health screening was compulsory. It that case it's nothing to cheer about. It's Orwellian intrusion into people's personal space.

Especially now since they measure your waist and if you don't meet their guidelines they tell you what you can and cannot eat. Not even the Soviet Union went that far.

-4 ( +1 / -6 )

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