In 1513, Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León set sail in search of Bimini, a mythical land said to house a spring that restored youth to anyone who drank from it. After scouring the Caribbean and Florida, he returned empty-handed, and the Fountain of Youth remained undiscovered. Perhaps he was just looking in the wrong place.
As part of their data collection for the World Factbook, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) combs through death certificates, recording race, gender, cause of death, and other factors to estimate the life expectancy of a nation's entire population. Calculating the average life expectancy of the world's total population at 67.59 years, the CIA has determined which societies live longer.
In the United states, average life expectancy is 78.49 years, well above the world's norm. Many experts attribute this to ongoing medical developments, which have dealt with conditions that used to mow us down early. Meanwhile, nations without advanced medical care report a much shorter life expectancy. For instance, citizens of the Republic of Chad in central Africa are only expected to live until their late 40s.
Despite the fact that the average American lives into his or her late 70s, the United States ranks 50th on the CIA's life expectancy list. According to the World Factbook, these 10 nations seem to have discovered the secret to longevity—no magical spring water required.
Average Life Expectancy: 81.86 years
Italians live an average of 3.37 years longer than Americans. Many experts draw a connection between their longevity and diet—which is more than just pasta, meat, and cheese. The Mediterranean diet is credited with lowering the risk for all sorts of diseases. The antioxidants found in olive oil and red wine—two key features of an Italian meal—can improve cholesterol, prevent blood clots, and stave off heart disease, according to the American Heart Association. Italians also rely on spices like basil, oregano, and garlic to flavor their cuisine, while Americans depend heavily on salt. As such, Italians improve their odds against high blood pressure and stroke.
Average Life Expectancy: 81.90 years
Australia's long life expectancy can be attributed to several factors, including relatively low smoking and obesity rates, as well as an active lifestyle enjoyed by its citizens. But many Australian medical experts insist that the secret to Aussies' longevity is universal healthcare. While the ability to obtain healthcare in the United States depends heavily on employment status and personal wealth, Australians have access to necessary care no matter how much they make. That said, Aussies shouldn't get too comfortable; the obesity rate is steadily climbing, which could undercut their longevity in years ahead.
8. Hong Kong
Average Life Expectancy: 82.12 years
Hong Kongers can expect to live nearly four years longer than Americans. Like Italians, people from Hong Kong can partly attribute their longer lives to their diet—rice, vegetables, and tofu are staples—and active lifestyle. Hong Kong reports a much lower obesity level than the United States does, as well as fewer instances of obesity-related health conditions, like diabetes.
Average Life Expectancy: 82.24 years
This small island in the English Channel is not a member of the United Kingdom or the European Union, despite being a British crown dependency. Its independence means Guernsey has not been affected by its neighbors' flailing economies. How does this tie into the long life expectancies of Channel Islanders? One theory: Guernsey residents live longer because they are wealthy, which affords them above-average healthcare and better nutrition. Channel Islanders are well-off, thanks to Guernsey's extremely low tax rates and high-paying jobs.