Take a cue from Asian Americans for long life
A national study shows that life expectancy of Hawaii residents in the longest in the nation.
LONG LIFE expectancy in Hawaii often has been attributed to the mild climate, clean air and yearlong access to outdoor recreation. A new study released last week indicates that Hawaii's large Asian-American population is a major factor, both in comparison with other states but also within the state. The reason is speculative, but non-Asians could begin considering a change in their diets and lifestyles.
The study by the Harvard School of Public Health showed that Hawaii has the nation's longest life expectancy at 80 years and that Hawaii's women lead all state groups broken down by gender at 83.2 years. The lowest life spans are in Washington, D.C., and throughout the South, ranging from 72 to 75 years.
The study found that Asian Americans have a life expectancy 5.9 years higher for males and 5.6 years higher for females than the closest of any other ethnic groups. The gap was constant through the 20 years examined in the study, although the advantages had been expected to diminish as second-generation Asian Americans adopted new diets and lifestyles.
It found a 15.4-year gap between Asian-American males and high-risk urban blacks and, similarly, a 12.8-year difference between Asian-American women and low-income black women in the South. Japan's life expectancy of 84.7 years is the longest in the world.
The conclusion about Asian-Americans' longer life spans is supported by statistics within Hawaii. According to the study, life expectancy is 80.5 years on Oahu, similar to other counties except the Big Island, where the life span is 77.3 years. Asian Americans comprise 41.8 percent of Honolulu's population, but only 25.8 percent of the residents in Hawaii County.
Media accounts of the study focused on Bergen County, N.J., where the average life span of 80 years was longer than that of any other county in the northeastern United States. One factor: Asian-American women in that county lived to an average of 91 years old, the country's longest life span among county sex and ethnicity subgroups.
The New York Times conducted dozens of interviews at a nursing home, a Japanese market and a center for the aged in Bergen County. Elderly women from Korea, China and Hong Kong attributed their longevity to a healthy diet, topnotch medical care, belief in God and their close-knit communities in the well-off suburbs along the Hudson River.
Majid Ezzati, a Harvard associate professor and one of the study's authors, attributed the Asian Americans' longevity to lower incidence of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and liver disease, and less prevalence of risk factors such as smoking, binge drinking, obesity and high cholesterol.
"It's always a lot harder to explain why somebody lives long than why they don't," Ezzati added.