Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Japanese Live Longest. Why?

A girl born in Japan today can expect to live to age 86.  Japanese life expectancy has increased 30-years since 1947.   A series of papers in the British medical journal, The Lancet, finds the Japanese success has  cultural, social and political roots.

The remarkable improvement in Japanese health began with the rapid economic growth of the late 1950s and 1960s. The government invested heavily in public health, introducing universal health insurance in 1961, free treatment for tuberculosis and cutting childhood deaths through vaccination and treatment of intestinal and respiratory infections.

Following the control of infectious diseases, Japan tackled its high death rate from stroke with salt reduction campaigns and the use of drugs to control blood pressure.
But beyond the government's initiatives, there are attitudes and cultural practices among the people of Japan that have also helped, says the article by Professor Kenji Shibuya, of the department of global health policy at the University of Tokyo, and colleagues.

"First, Japanese people give attention to hygiene in all aspects of their daily life," they write. "This attitude might partly be attributable to a complex interaction of culture, education, climate [eg humidity, temperature], environment [eg having plenty of water and being a rice-eating nation] and the old Shinto tradition of purifying the body and mind before meeting others."

"Second, they are health conscious. In Japan, regular check-ups are the norm. Mass screening is provided for everyone at school and work or in the community by local government authorities. A systematic check-up of the whole body, referred to as a human dry dock, is another type of health screening, which is popular amiong business people - they stay at clinics or hospitals for several days to undergo thorough physical examinations.

"Third, Japanese food has a balanced nutritional benefit and the diet of the Japanese population has improved in tandem with economic development over the past five decades."

Another aspect of Japan that contributes to the cohesiveness and prosperity of their society is income equality.  Japan has the narrowest gap between rich and poor in the industrialized world.


Anyong said...

The Japanese Health Care System is based upon the French and Canadian one. However, there is a very positive attitude toward their country that does not exist in Canada. Like South Korea, the Japanese say: Healthy Japanese Healthy Japan, Educated Japanese Educated Japan, Employed Japanese Employed Japan. In Canada we seem to put in place wonderful social systems only to be torn down by trying to empliment the US system....dah, dah, dah!!

Beijing York said...

Full employment economics trumps the economics of efficiency. At least that's what I witnessed on a daily basis when I lived there.

Workers are given respect, and as such, take pride in their work. Even construction and maintenance workers were given quality uniforms that were clean and pressed.

Among the suits or "salary men", it was common practice for the bosses to take their team out to drinking establishments to let off steam. Bosses would get drunk enough to make fools of themselves in front of their staff and this bizarre practice helped build team spirit.

The Mound of Sound said...

Unfortunately we prefer to adopt the appetites and mores of the society closest to us. We watch our neighbour degenerate into outright dysfunction yet it does nothing to curb our quest for their way of life.