Factors Influencing Longevity

Why Where You Live Matters

Our genes only have about a thirty percent effect on our life expectancy. The rest is up to us. Factors known to increase longevity include the amount of exercise we get; dietary factors such as calorie restriction, fasting and nutrient-rich diets; dietary supplements; meaningful relationships; meaningful relationships and friendships; education; career and hobby goals; and where we live.

Life expectancy differs quite a bit depending on where one lives, and this has primarily to do with an individual’s activity level, diet, community safety and available services, and access to health providers. Life expectancy varies a great deal by country, state, city and community.

In the United States, Hawaii is ranked as having the highest life expectancy at about 81.5 years. According to TitleMax, California, Colorado, Minnesota, New York, and many of the New England States also have life expectancies greater than 80 years. In Colorado the cities with the highest life expectancies are located at higher elevations. The lowest life expectancy in the United States at 74.9 years is seen in Mississippi, followed by Louisiana at 75.82 years and Alabama at 75.65 years.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) an average American has a life expectancy of 78.8 years although if you live in New York City, the American city with the highest life expectancy, you could expect to live longer. New York City has ranked the highest American city for longevity for decades, and it’s attributed to the increased amount of walking. According to the NYC Bureau of Vital Statistics, if you were born in 2017 you could expect to live to 82.4 years; if you were Hispanic, 81.3 years if you were a non-Hispanic white; and 77.3 years if you were a non-Hispanic Black.

Globally, Japan has the highest life expectancy at 84.2 years, followed by Switzerland at 83.3 years, Spain at 83.1 years, and Singapore at 82.9 years. The United States falls behind most European countries and ranks 34th for life expectancy at 78.5 years, right behind Cuba at 79.0 years.

In a 2018 Harvard Study a group of international researchers identified five healthy habits that could extend life expectancy by 14 years for women and 12 years for men. These include

  • eating a diet high in plants and low in fats

  • exercising at a moderate to vigorous level for several hours each week

  • maintaining a healthy body weight

  • not smoking

  • consuming no more than one alcoholic drink a day for women and two drinks for men

Telomeres are the caps at the end of DNA strands. Short telomeres are associated with a shorter lifespan. With most longevity studies today focusing on the length of telomeres, a topic described in the next article, it’s important to know that telomere length can increase with exercise, diet and dietary supplements. While location affects an individual’s lifespan, simple changes can increase one’s longevity.