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Why do Japanese people live longer?

People with Cherry Blossom

Why do Japanese people live longer?

According to the 2022 World Health Statistics published by the WHO, the country with the longest life expectancy is Japan – 84.3 years. Switzerland came in second at 83.4 years – about a one-year difference from Japan.

The life expectancy of an American is 76.5 years (ranked 40).

How could that be? The United States is perhaps the most advanced nation in the world in various fields including medical science. How could the American life expectancy be so short compared to that of other advanced countries in the world? Isn’t the US the most developed country? Many American think this is because of the foods they eat. Can food alone make the lives of Americans so short? To a certain extent, yes.

By reading this article on why Japanese people live longer, you may also find the answer.

If you search for answers to the question of why Japanese people live so long, you’ll find reasons related mostly to the healthy food they eat, their medical system, their lifestyle, etc.

Some reasons for Japanese longevity you often hear about include::

  • Japanese foods are healthy – low in calories, fat, and cholesterol.
  • Japanese people get regular medical checkups – these help to find cancer and other diseases in their early stages.
  • Medical costs in Japan are comparatively low because of the nation’s
    health insurance system.
  • Increased national income levels of people due to economic progress

They do not seem to be decisive factors. There must be a factor X.

The Japanese live longer because of “neoteny,” i.e., because they are programmed to age slowly. Their long life expectancy is on the gene level. In other words, their biological clocks are set to move slowly.

What is Neoteny? Neoteny is a zoology term referring to the retention of juvenile traits into adulthood.

Japanese obsession with youth and cuteness

Now cuteness is the nature’s way of saying “please take care of me”. Children need to be cute because they need to be taken care of by adults and babies

are even more so. Dogs and cats have required cuteness in the course of evolution to be taken care of (especially to be fed) by humans while they have been close to humans.

If you tell a 30 year old Japanese woman that she looks like an 18 year old she would feel she was flattered and feel happy with the comment but if you tell a 28 year old American woman that she looks like 20 years old, what would she think? American people often say that they want to look like their ages.

It is often said that Japanese are so obsessed with youth-looking things or cuteness. Which means: in Japanese society, it is a virtue and is a great thing to stay young-looking. It is speculated this has been the same for centuries or over a thousand year.

It is likely that Japanese acquired to “age slowly” in the course of revolution in the past centuries as it has been the best “tool” in order to be taken care of by others (especially by the older ones) and to survive in their communities-in other words their genes have acquired some program to age slowly. Because staying young is the best strategy in living in the community where people are obsessed with youth and even overate it. Once again cuteness is almost synonymous with youthfulness in some sense and cuteness is the nature way of saying “take care of me.” In Japan it is literally a big thing that matters more than others.

Comparison with US Americans

Now in America, on the contrary, people are expected to mentally grow up fast. You sometimes hear people say “Grow up!”.  Young people are often treated like they were adults. Also, Americans in general have deep voices. The voices of Americans are in general much deeper than those of Brits, French or Asians. Deep voices are the non-verbal way of saying “I am big” or “I am mature.”

Young people would be expected to act like a matured adult after certain age. It is speculated that the reason why Americans are expected to grow fast or act as if they were older than their real ages is because in the days of America’s pioneer era, it was important to be mature early and be strong to survive in the threat of great nature or in other dangerous situations and above all help and take care of each other rather than being taken care of.

It is often said that 20 year old Japanese would look like 16 year old in the USA or generally Japanese people would look much younger in America. This would make perfect sense if you think about the fact Japanese grow slowly compared with Americans. Almost every society in the world, except possibly in the community of Pirahá where they do not have a concept of age or time, ages are counted stating from the day one is born as a baby. What if we count one’ age considering how many percentage of our life expectancy we have already lived? If there are Japanese and American men and women who are 20 years old, the Japanese ones have lived 23 percent of their life expectancy while the American counterparts have already lived 26 years of their life expectancy. This would explain why Japanese look younger to some extend.  Time is relative, as Einstein said.

Naturally this would not explain the longevity of people in other countries ranked high. There should be different reasons depending on the country. It is just like the reason why the player or a team ranked number one in some sport is different from the reason other players/teams are ranked number 2 or 3.


Japanese live long lives

In 1965, the average life expectancy of Japanese was 70.2 years
and was about the same as that of the US Americans.



Comment (1)
  1. Sophia Fire says:

    That was a neat article. I think the author’s theory is very interesting! Well-written and thought-provoking!


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