We’ve mentioned before that British Columbia has Canada’s longest life expectancy.  But residents of Richmond, in the Greater Vancouver area, have BC’s longest lifespans:  83.4 years, nearly 2 years longer than in Japan, the longest-lived nation in the world.

That’s about 5 years of extra life, compared with the average for the Northwest states (WA, OR, and ID).  Over the last two decades, lifespans in the US Northwest have increased by about two and a half years.  So if present trends continue, Richmond already has the lifespan that we’ll enjoy in about 2045.

Now, there’s no clear explanation for why Richmond residents live so long, but it’s likely to be a combination of factors: good diets (many Richmond residents are Asian emigrants, with diets high in vegetables and low in saturated fats); a service-based economy with few high-risk jobs; and, possibly most importantly, affluence.  Money is no guarantee of a long life—America is a wealthy nation, but it ranks below Costa Rica and Cyprus in life expectancy, and just a bit ahead of relatively impoverished Cuba.  But all else being equal, affluent residents of a given society tend to live longer.

But not always.  Okinawa, Japan’s poorest prefecture, has the country’s longest expectancy, and a remarkable number of centenarians.  Their secret (besides a healthy diet) seems to be strong communities that help keep seniors secure, engaged and active, both socially and physically. 

So even without exhorbitant wealth, strong communities can improve health—which is something we should all take to heart.