Why Hong Kong leads the life expectancy in the world.
News of Expansion.
The Chinese city is an urban oasis that truth has many areas and hospitals quality access for all. Skyscrapers everywhere, busy streets, ubiquitous flashing lights and one meter normally takes you where you want to go in less than 30 minutes. That’s life more than 7 million people living in little more than eighty thousand square kilometers of territory.
Is the urban oasis of Hong Kong, yes, you’ve read well, oasis.
Scattered across more than 300 skyscrapers towering over Hong Kong, there are well-kept parks, hospitals and affordable quality for all restaurants filled with local cuisine that is much healthier than its reputation suggests. Just a few miles away, there are mountains for hiking and beaches for swimming or surfing.
Sunday afternoon, families fill the streets and gather for their weekly dim sum, Cantonese dish that so ubiquitous in Hong Kong. The result is a population long and healthy life expectancy highest in the world.
Hong Kong men, which slightly exceeded longevity residents of Japan and other “blue zones” as Italy, living on average until 81.3 years and women even more, 87.3 years, according to data from 2016. “In the last decades, Hong Kong has positioned itself in a tremendous way, “said Dr. Timothy Kwok, professor of geriatric medicine at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Dr. Gabriel Leung, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Hong Kong, said “We surpassed Japan about five years ago, is not a position we have occupied for decades.”
As Hong Kong is not a country, it is not included in the overall rate of aging AgeWatch Global Index, a measure of the social and economic welfare in 96 countries, drawn up by HelpAge International. But the research team used the same criteria Kwok said index, combined with other factors, to reveal what is helping people live longer.
And it all starts with their environment.
Easy access to everything
According to research Kwok, “Hong Kong ranks first in enabling environments , ” he said. “That may explain our longevity.”
The streets are safe, and there is easy access to public transport, health food and public recreation areas, which “encourages” people to live a lifestyle healthier.
The temptation of getting into a car and drive is minimized by footbridges and elevators that provide easier access to routes pedestrian, affordable taxis and public transportation: a trip on the metro (clean and air conditioning) costs base 60 cents.
“You can easily walk to shops or malls closest to what you need …” Kwok said. “Older people mostly do not go to the supermarket; will open markets. “
“We are greener than most cities,” Kwok said, adding that in many green spaces is common to see groups of seniors doing calisthenics with tai chi or qi gong in the early hours of the morning, then They spend time together to share meals and conversation.
“The morning tai chi exercises are very popular and play a role,” Leung said, but his team is studying exactly how important the role of these factors in life expectancy.
“We need to design urban spaces to facilitate such activity,” he said for his part Dr. John Beard, director of the department of aging and life in the World Health Organization (WHO).
Almost all districts of Hong Kong are members of the WHO global network of friendly cities with older people, encouraging the creation of urban spaces adapted to the elderly, Beard said. This includes positive images of older adults, active leisure and programs for spiritual well-being.
The government also launched an initiative in which he invited the elderly to go and identify problems with footpaths and other barriers to mobility, officials noted the problems and addressed in their plans, he said.
HOSPITALS GOOD FOR ALL
“Anyone can go to the hospital,” Kwok said, adding that Hong Kong has universal health care for hospital treatment, but not universal for primary care.
“The negative is that people will (ER) too often,” he said. However, older people generally do not pay for primary care and are treated with priority.
“When you’re sick, really sick and need to be hospitalized, is free at the point of care,” Leung said. “No one would be denied adequate medical care due to lack of means”.
Beard agreed that affordable health care contributes to longevity, as fewer people can die from conditions that otherwise would have cost them life.
“It is important that access is for everyone, not just for the rich,” said Beard. “That’s how increases the average life expectancy because there will be those people at the lower end that adversely affect the overall average.”
Leung stressed that good health care in the early years of life, not only in the past, is equally important in determining life expectancy.
This means maternal, neonatal and child care to prevent childhood diseases, as well as efforts to prevent “the great murderers” of old age, such as cancer, heart disease and stroke, he said. “These two factors determine the life expectancy of a population to be born.”
OF THE MIGRANT RESILIENCE
Leung estimated that 70% of Hong Kong residents over 70 years born in mainland China and came in search of better opportunities.
“Many of them came as economic migrants … and were almost triathletes. He climbed, ran and swam “he said. Immigrants also need to be psychologically stronger than their peers to have the motivation to uproot and abandon his former life.
“Physically, you need to be fit to endure the journey,” he said. “These are people who are destined to a higher risk of dying now, as with their peers in his hometown, but are not dying.”
This survival advantage, combined with better child care, is what prompted Leung believes that the “miracle of life expectancy” in Hong Kong.
Kwok also believes that Hong Kong is well positioned geographically, with a subtropical climate that plays a role. “Not too hot nor too cold , ” making life easier and more comfortable, he said.
In countries like the UK, there are more deaths during the winter months, for example, during the winter of 2016-17 were an estimated 34,300 additional deaths. In the United States, there were an estimated 108,500 additional deaths in the winter of 2008.
However, other parts of the world known for its cold or hot climates have lived populations healthy, disproved Leung, who believes that this factor plays a minor role in longevity.
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“Japan has a very different climate to Hong Kong, and Singapore has a very different climate to Japan,” explained Leung. “We are subtropical, Singapore is tropical and Japan is mild. Although the weather plays a role, it can not be decisive. “
Another geographic benefit is “access to good food,” Kwok said.
Hong Kong’s position as a maritime and terrestrial gateway to China and other parts of Asia will allow greater access to fresh fish, fruits and vegetables, he said. If you also combined with a kitchen that includes most of the dishes, the general population eats well.
“We studied the Chinese diet, and is quite similar to the Mediterranean diet”, he said, are meals often consist of fish, fruits, vegetables, rice, nut oils for cooking and meat is added to the plate instead of eating as whole portions. “The mix,” Kwok said.
However, according to Beard, when highlighted factors such as diet, whether in Hong Kong, the Mediterranean and Japan, it is important that people have always eaten that way. “Then why live longer now?” He asked. “Probably there was also a reduction of stressors.”
The close family networks of Asian cultures are well known, and provide both financial and social support as people age.
“Older people used to have many children,” Kwok said. But with decreasing size of families and the fact that China imposed by you decades a policy of one child, it is likely to change for the next generation of seniors. “The baby boomers had fewer children”
Beard adds, however, that the Asian philosophy of filial piety (a virtue of respect for parents, elders and ancestors) is essential for happiness seen in old age, both physical and psychological.
“Older people are genuinely respected, and younger family members strive to ensure the welfare of the older members of the family,” said Beard.
“This is the Confucian culture,” Leung said. “But I sobredimensionarlo no.” Dean notes that Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore are among the most densely populated places on Earth, where “it is difficult to accommodate a family of two or three generations in the same household.”
However, Beard believes that people are adapting. “The mechanisms are now changing, but there are innovative ways that people are exploring how to communicate through video and send cash transfers, which allow this to continue filial piety,” he said.
STILL SPACE TO IMPROVE
Experts agree that rank high in life expectancy does not mean that there is room for improvement.
The overall rate of aging also explored factors relating to social care, such as mental health and income security, which according to Kwok is not the strong point of Hong Kong with respect to the elderly.
“Participation in civil society is not as strong as in Western countries,” he said, citing employment and volunteering among seniors and stressing that mental health is not a priority as part of health care, because people should you wait for them channeled a specialist.
Suicide rates in Hong Kong are higher among people over 65 years. 937 suicides in 2014, 241 were of people who were over 65, according to the Center for Research and Prevention of Suicide HKJC University of Hong Kong.
It is also estimated that one in three older people have symptoms of depression.
“We want happy people live longer, not only to live,” he said.
Kwok said that Hong Kong does not have a pension system of government, people depend on their children. “On the issue of security of income going wrong,” he acknowledged.
Leung agreed: “There is much work we must do to ensure that these people live healthy and happy.”
A TEMPORARY LEADERSHIP?
Most changes among those top the list of longevity are minor, Beard said. Japan and Hong Kong “are … world leaders, along with Germany, Italy and Australia.”
Leung agrees. “It is a fact that life expectancy only increase,” he said, citing the United States, where life expectancy has declined in recent years.
Changes in diets and pollution likely to affect the observed patterns in recent years, Beard said. “Diets are not as healthy as before … and we must do everything possible to help people live lives longer and healthier. It’s never too late”
Leung study aims to determine the main factors driving the high life expectancy in Hong Kong and how fundamental the role. Researchers are testing grounds that this is due to universal health care, improved child care, economic migration and reducing smoking rates among women compared with other parts of the world their hypothesis, resulting in less diseases related to smoking.
If you discover these are underlying factors, he hopes to use that information to formulate policies aimed at maintaining a healthy population and long-lived and thus, keep Hong Kong a leader in life expectancy.