By 2040, Spain will be home to the world’s longest-living people

Pensioners playing dominoes in southern Spain.
Pensioners playing dominoes in southern Spain.
Image: Reuters/Jon Nazca
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The Spanish can lay claim to a beautiful country, huge amounts of sunshine, and an enviable lifestyle. Now, according to a new survey from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, published in the Lancet, its inhabitants can look forward to the longest life expectancy in the world—an average of 85.8 years by 2040.

Christopher Murray, IMHE director, told the Guardian that although Spanish people could do with smoking less tobacco, they get high marks for their diet. The Mediterranean diet of olive oil, fresh fish, and a broad selection of vegetables has long been acknowledged as an important factor in longevity. Some surveys on the diet, however, have shown that the benefits on cardiovascular health are more pronounced for the wealthy and well-educated.

Spaniard Francisco Núñez Olivera held the Guinness world record as the world’s oldest man until he died in January at age 113. He said his long life was down to lots of homegrown vegetables, a glass of red wine a day, hard work, and good genes. Europe’s oldest woman, Ana Vela Rubio, hit 116 years of age before she died in December 2017.

Spain is poised to knock Japan of its long-held top spot by a fraction: The survey predicts by 2040, Japanese people will live to an average age of 85.7 years. In 2016, Japan’s world-beating life expectancy was at 83.7 years.

The outlook is gloomier for the US, which is expected keep tumbling down the rankings from its current 43rd place to 64th, with an average lifespan of 79.8 years. Murray said that the big causes of death, like heart and respiratory disease, aren’t expected to change much in the US. “The trends are not as favorable as what we are seeing in Australia, New Zealand, or western Europe,” he said.