Thinking of moving abroad for health reasons? Read on below to find out which countries made the cut...
21 May 2019| Last updated on 19 January 2020
Moving aborad for health reasons is something millions of people around the world consider, with the allure of a longer life one of the defining factors.
Choosing exactly where to move for a longer life is the tricky part; do you move to a rural location?
Or what about green cities such as Copenhagen or Singapore, with their excellent eco credentials? To make your decision a little easier, check out our guide on where to live the healthiest lives around the world:
1. Costa Rica
Already famous for its sapphire oceans and lush jungle expanses, Costa Rica oozes sunshine and good vibes. More so than this though, is the country’s exceptionally high standard of living. Some chalk it down to the local diet, which is rich in high-fibre fortified corn (particularly the indigenous diet). Others believe the tight-knit social structures increase the locals’ engagement with life. What we do know for certain is that Costa Rica’s life expectancy exceeds the likes of the USA, with one region standing out amongst the rest.
This is the Nicoya Peninsula, a part of Costa Rica firmly placed in the ‘Blue Zones’ of the world. A ‘Blue Zone’, is a region of the world where people appear to live longer and healthier lives than the rest of the globe. In fact, “for a 60-year-old Nicoyan male, the probability of becoming centenarian is seven times that of a Japanese male, and his life expectancy is 2.2 years greater”, according to a US study.
Moving there might not guarantee you a place amongst the centenarians of the world, but if moving to live a healthier life is your main motivation, Costa Rica is definitely a place to consider.
2. New Zeland
Dramatic landscapes, low pollution and great healthcare options make New Zealand a prime candidate for inclusion in the world’s healthiest places to live. Not only this, but the population is dead set on taking advantage of New Zealand’s exceptional outdoor activities.
It isn’t always high-octane thrills though, in case you were thinking bungee jumping was a prerequisite to a longer life! Rather, many New Zealanders spend their time hiking and walking, which are both the most popular sports in the country. Swimming is a huge part of New Zealand culture as well, with no place in the country being more than a 90-minute drive from the ocean.
Food also plays a huge part in the health of New Zealanders, with an abundance of organic produce available in almost every shop. Not only shops, but from locals too, who maintain a tradition of growing their own crops. They usually leave out bags of produce available to buy, so it’s not unusual to walk through a street picking and choosing as you walk. It adds a real sense of community spirit, even in the cities, and it’s great to be able to avoid a trip to the supermarket. Fresh seafood is equally popular, thanks in part to the country’s pristine waters.
We’ve all heard of how healthy the Mediterranean diet is, but Sardinia takes first place for just how effective it seems to be. Fruits, olive oil, pecorino cheese (high in Omega 3), and whole grain flatbreads are only a few of the daily elements of a Sardinian diet. All of it comes together to give Sardinians an ‘elixir of life’, with centenarians being far from the outlier. In some parts of Sardinia, it is entirely typical for bars or taverns to feature a ‘centenarian of the month’ on their calendars!
For fans of great wine, Sardinia’s own Cannonau red boasts the highest level of antioxidants on the planet. It is a common drink after work for an active population; in particular the Sardinian men, many of whom walk miles every day to tend to herds of sheep and goats. Fun fact, the average caloric intake of a Sardinian shepherd is roughly 45.5 kilocalories per kilogram, which eclipses the typical US man’s 33.8 kilocalories per kilogram. Not only this, but their average height is only 5’ 3”, which shows that their active lifestyle more than mitigates the exceptionally high calorie consumption.
4. Icaria, Greece
We’ve all heard of the legend of Icarus, the boy who flew too high in defiance of his father. Escaping the palace of Minos in wings they’d made, the father and son duo flew away. Poor Icarus however, got too close to the sun and the heat melted the wax holding his wings together. He fell down into the ocean, which took his name as the Icarian Sea. A nearby island was called Icaria too, and unlike its namesake, it is famous for the longevity of its residents.
Whether it’s the incredibly healthy diet, or something mythical in the waters, Icaria is well known for its population of people living over the age of 90. The island actually has the highest percentage of 90-year-olds anywhere on the planet, with almost 1 in every 3 people making it past their 9th decade. A popular belief abounding is that the island’s natural thermal springs revitalise the body and soul, and though it’s never been proven, there’s no reason not to take a dip!
5. Okinawa, Japan
How could we not include the home of the longest life expectancy of anywhere on Earth? Okinawa, a series of islands that stretch across the South China Sea, is inhabited by a remarkable number of centenarians. For every 100,000 people, a staggering 68 are over the age of 100. This has led to a surge in interest in the Okinawan diet, with people the world over clamouring to understand the secret to longer life.
In a peculiar subversion of accepted norms, the Okinawan diet has a very high ratio of carbohydrates to protein. This contradicts the logic of many ‘Western’ diets, such as the Atkins diet, which advocate for a high-protein intake (despite the lack of substantial evidence). Perhaps the “Okinawan ratio” of 10:1 carbohydrate to protein is the answer? Or maybe it’s the island’s closely bonded community, which science suggests can improve health by limiting a body’s stress response to difficult events.
- Copenhagen: A city defined by its eco commitments. Clean harbour waters are available for all to swim in, something that residents of other large cities might find hard to believe.
- Singapore: As Asia’s greenest city, Singapore features tons of unique approaches to reducing environmental harm. Rooftop gardens are the norm here and the iconic ‘Gardens by the Bay’ symbolises the city’s dedication to a greener future.
- Reykjavik: Iceland’s capital leads the way in renewable energy, with its abundant thermal springs powering all of its hot water, electricity and heating. For some of the cleanest air around, you can’t do much better than Reykjavik.