Why do japanese people live longer?


Japan has the highest life expectancy in the world, with Japanese people living longer than almost any other country. The average life expectancy in Japan is 84 years - 4 years longer than the global average. But why do Japanese people live so long, and what's the secret behind their longevity?

Why do japanese people live longer?

In this blog post, we'll explore the reasons why 

Why Do Japanese People Live So Long? An Overview of Factors Behind Their High Life Expectancy

There are a variety of interconnecting factors that contribute to the impressive life expectancy enjoyed by Japanese people. Here is a quick rundown of the key reasons why Japanese citizens live longer:

  • Traditional Japanese diet full of fish, soy, vegetables, and green tea
  • Low rates of obesity and overweight
  • High intakes of omega-3 fatty acids
  • Strong focus on prevention in healthcare
  • High rates of physical activity and low rates of sedentary behavior
  • Low smoking rates, especially among Japanese women
  • Effective universal healthcare system with good access
  • Higher sense of purpose and strong social ties
  • Low levels of stress and emphasis on relaxation
  • Use of public transport and active commuting

While genetics plays some role, it's largely the diet, lifestyle, healthcare access, and cultural attitudes in Japan that enable such long average life spans. The traditional Japanese diet and active lifestyle are particularly instrumental - let's explore them further.

The Traditional Japanese Diet: What They Eat to Live Longer

Diet is one of the biggest factors influencing longevity. The traditional Japanese diet is full of nutritious foods that protect against disease and support health into old age. Here are some of the key elements of the traditional Japanese diet that promote longevity:

Fish and Seafood

Fish like salmon and tuna deliver omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation, protect the heart and brain, and lower rates of cancer. Miso soup made with fish stock is a staple Japanese breakfast. Seafood like squid and octopus are also common in Japan. Higher intakes of fish and seafood support brain health and reduce mortality from major diseases.

Soybeans and Soy Products

Soybeans are a staple of the Japanese diet. Soy foods like tofu and edamame are rich in protein and antioxidants. Soy may lower LDL cholesterol, improve cardiovascular health, and reduce the risk of breast and prostate cancer. Soybeans also contain genistein, an isoflavone with anti-inflammatory effects.


From spinach to mushrooms to seaweed, the Japanese diet is packed with different vegetables. They eat 14% more veggies than Americans. The vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in vegetables reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, and prevent cell damage. Dark leafy greens are especially healthy.

Green Tea

The Japanese drink green tea daily, which contains catechins, antioxidants that reduce heart disease and cancer risk. Green tea may also activate fat-burning metabolism. Sencha is the most popular green tea in Japan. Matcha green tea powder is used in tea ceremonies.


Rice is a staple grain and carbohydrate source. But Japanese people eat reasonable portion sizes of rice as part of balanced meals. Rice bran contains antioxidants like vitamin E to reduce cholesterol. Brown rice is healthier than white.

Fermented Foods

Fermented foods aid digestion and deliver probiotics. The Japanese eat foods like miso (fermented soybean paste), natto (fermented soybeans), pickled vegetables, and small amounts of fermented alcoholic beverages. Fermented foods support gut and immune health.

So the traditional Japanese diet comprised of fish, soy, veggies, tea, rice, and fermented foods provides the nutrients and antioxidants needed for a long and healthy life. But what about how Japanese people eat?

Why the Japanese Diet Enables Longevity

It's not just what Japanese people eat, but how they eat that influences longevity:

  • Smaller portions - the Japanese believe in the term Hara Hachi Bu, eating until you are 80% full
  • Mindful eating - they eat slowly and with intention
  • Shared communal meals - mealtimes provide social connection
  • Balance and variety - the Japanese diet is rich and balanced but with moderation
  • Fresh, seasonal produce - they focus on local, seasonal ingredients

The traditional Japanese diet ticks all the boxes for healthy eating patterns linked to longevity. But diet is just one piece of the longevity puzzle...

Active Lifestyles Keep Japanese People Living Longer

The Japanese are also very physically active, which reduces mortality and prevents many age-related diseases. Here's how Japanese lifestyles promote longevity:

Walking and Public Transport

Only 1 in 10 Japanese people drive cars regularly. Most either use public transport or walk to where they need to go. Lots of walking means more daily physical activity. Public transport also involves walking to stations. Active commuting is linked to lower BMI and reduced heart disease risk.

Activity Breaks

The Japanese incorporate small breaks for exercise during the workday. Office workers may do light exercise like stretches during short breaks. Building activity into work routines increases total daily energy expenditure.

Group Exercise Classes

Japanese people frequently participate in community exercise classes, especially aqua aerobics and dance classes for seniors. Exercising in a social group makes exercise more engaging and fun.

Martial Arts

Martial arts like karate and judo are popular in Japan. Martial arts improve strength, balance, and fitness - key for healthy aging. The mental focus also reduces stress.

Weekend Hiking

Hiking in nature is a popular weekend pastime. The Japanese are motivated to stay active well into older age to enjoy hobbies like hiking. Being outdoors also encourages relaxation.

Hot Spring Bathing

Bathing in natural hot springs (onsen) is part of Japanese culture. Enjoying hot springs promotes relaxation and recovery from activity.

So between active transport, leisure-time exercise, martial arts, and other active hobbies, the Japanese population stays physically fit as they age. But beyond diet and exercise, what else enables their longevity?

Healthcare and Cultural Attitudes Support Long Life in Japan

While active lifestyles and eating patterns are major pieces of the puzzle, other factors like healthcare and cultural values help Japanese people live longer:

  • Universal healthcare ensures access to preventive care and medical treatment
  • Health exams and screening are proactively encouraged
  • Japanese people view caring for elderly relatives as a responsibility
  • Strong social ties and community connections prevent isolation
  • Japanese culture values rest and relaxation
  • Nature-focused pastimes like hot spring bathing reduce stress
  • Lower income inequality means access to health-promoting resources

Healthcare focuses on prevention and early detection of disease - key for longevity. Japanese people also feel a sense of purpose by caring for parents and grandparents as they age. And the Japanese people's zen approach to relaxation and communal focus allows them to manage stress.

So in summary, the combination of a nutrient-dense traditional diet, active lifestyles, effective healthcare, and cultural values all enable Japanese citizens to live longer, healthier lives.

Top Tips to Increase Your Life Expectancy Inspired by Japan

While genetics plays a partial role, you can adopt lifestyle habits to increase your chances of living longer:

  • Eat more fish and soy foods: Enjoy salmon, tuna, edamame, and tofu more often for longevity nutrients.
  • Drink green tea daily: Choose green tea over other beverages for antioxidants.
  • Eat more vegetables: Aim for 7-9 servings of veggies like leafy greens daily.
  • Choose whole grains: Opt for brown rice and whole grain breads and pasta.
  • Walk and use public transport: Reduce driving to increase daily activity.
  • Try martial arts: Tai chi, for example, builds strength and reduces stress.
  • Bathe in nature: Visit hot springs or take forest baths to relax.
  • Develop social ties: Join community exercise classes to combine fitness and friends.
  • Focus on relaxation: Practice mindful meditation and make rest a priority.

Adopting aspects of the Japanese lifestyle, from their diet to their stress-reduction practices, can help increase your healthspan and potentially extend your lifespan too.

The Takeaway: Why Japanese People Live Longer and How You Can Too

In conclusion, Japanese people live around 4 years longer than the global average, with life expectancies over 80 years. This impressive longevity is fueled by:

  • A traditional diet full of fish, soy, tea, veggies, and fermented foods
  • High physical activity from active commuting, martial arts, and group exercise
  • Good healthcare access focused on prevention and early detection
  • Low chronic disease rates like obesity, heart disease, and cancer
  • Cultural values around community, relaxation, and looking after the elderly

While genetics plays a partial role, adopting aspects of the Japanese lifestyle can help you potentially live longer too. Eat more nourishing foods like fatty fish and soy, stay active through transport choices and exercise, reduce stress, and develop social bonds for the best shot at healthy aging.

Japan has unlocked something special when it comes to longevity. But with some diet upgrades, a more active lifestyle, and a focus on reducing stress, you can take steps towards increasing your own life expectancy too.

Key Takeaways:

  • The traditional Japanese diet full of fish, soy, tea, fermented foods, and veggies enables longevity.
  • Active transport and exercise habits keep the Japanese population fit and healthy.
  • Cultural values around community, relaxation, and elderly relatives supports long lives.
  • Good healthcare access and prevention programs increase life expectancy.
  • While genetics plays a role, diet, activity, healthcare, and lifestyle influence longevity.
  • Eating more Japanese-style foods, exercising regularly, reducing stress, and connecting socially can help increase life expectancy.


Q: Why do Japanese people live longer?

A: Japanese people have the longest life expectancy in the world. There are several factors that contribute to their longevity.

Q: What is the secret to living a long life in Japan?

A: The secret lies in their lifestyle choices and cultural practices. Japanese people typically follow a healthy diet, drink green tea, and use public transport for commuting.

Q: How does a healthy diet contribute to the longevity of Japanese people?

A: Japanese people consume a diet that is rich in plant foods such as soybeans and less meat. This high consumption of plant-based foods and low intake of dairy products contribute to their overall good health and lower risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Q: Does the Japanese government play a role in promoting a healthy lifestyle?

A: Yes, the Japanese government actively promotes a healthy lifestyle through various initiatives and programs. They encourage the consumption of nutritious food and promote regular physical activity.

Q: Do Japanese men have a higher life expectancy compared to men in Western countries?

A: Yes, Japanese men have a higher life expectancy compared to men in Western countries. This can be attributed to their healthy diet, lower rates of obesity, and lower mortality from cerebrovascular diseases.

Q: Is the consumption of green tea a contributing factor to Japanese longevity?

A: Yes, the regular consumption of green tea is believed to have various health benefits, including reducing the risk of hypertension and cardiovascular diseases. Green tea is a common beverage in Japan and is often included in their daily diet.

Q: Why is the life expectancy in Japan relatively high compared to other countries?

A: The higher life expectancy in Japan is mainly due to the combination of factors such as a healthy diet, active lifestyle, universal healthcare system, and strong sense of community.

Q: How does commuting by public transport contribute to longer life expectancy in Japan?

A: Commuting by public transport encourages physical activity as people often walk or cycle to reach their transportation points. This regular exercise contributes to better cardiovascular health and overall fitness.

Q: Is obesity a significant concern in Japan?

A: Obesity rates in Japan are relatively low compared to other developed countries. While there has been an increase in recent years, it is still among the lowest in the G7 countries.

Q: What are some of the health conditions that Japanese people have a lower risk of?

A: Japanese people have a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases, including hypertension and high cholesterol levels. They also have lower rates of obesity and related health issues.

Japanese people live longer and have such high life expectancies. We'll look at their traditional diet, lifestyle factors, healthcare system, and cultural attitudes to uncover the secrets behind their long and healthy lives. Read on to learn why Japanese people live longer and pick up healthy living tips to increase your own life expectancy.

Resources used to write this article

  • World Health Organization. (2022). Japan. https://www.who.int/countries/jpn/
  • Zhang, Y., Cui, Y., Chang, L., Liu, L., Chen, C., Tao, S., & Sun, J. (2021). Dietary and lifestyle factors associated with life expectancy in Japan. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 30(3), 546-553. https://doi.org/10.6133/apjcn.202109_30(3).0017
  • Ikeda, N., Gakidou, E., Hasegawa, T., & Murray, C. J. (2008). Understanding the decline of mean systolic blood pressure in Japan: an analysis of pooled data from the National Nutrition Survey, 1986-2002. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 86(12), 978-988A. https://doi.org/10.2471/blt.07.049908
  • Monma, Y., Takeda, F., Itoi, A., Hoshi, K., Saito, K., Murakami, Y., Iwasa, H., Kusano, Y., & Nishimura, S. (2015). Impact of lifestyle on life expectancy in Japan: healthy life expectancy in the elderly. Geriatrics & gerontology international, 15(1), 91–97. https://doi.org/10.1111/ggi.12237
  • Willcox, B. J., Willcox, D. C., Todoriki, H., Fujiyoshi, A., Yano, K., He, Q., Curb, J. D., & Suzuki, M. (2007). Caloric restriction, the traditional Okinawan diet, and healthy aging: the diet of the world's longest-lived people and its potential impact on morbidity and life span. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1114, 434–455. https://doi.org/10.1196/annals.1396.037

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