This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Saturday, March 3, 2018

Can Hong Kong Really Claim to Have the Highest Life Expectancy?

A story on CNN yesterday saw the boast from Hong Kong that it has edged past Japan in terms of life expectancy at birth. 
Narrowly beating residents of Japan and other "blue zones" such as Italy, men in Hong Kong are living, on average, up to 81.3 years and women even longer, 87.3 years, as of 2016. "Over the last few decades, (Hong Kong) has caught up in a big 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 at Hong Kong University, noted that "we inched past Japan about five years ago. It's not a position that we've found ourselves in for decades."
The latest PRB World Population Data Sheet shows Hong Kong and Japan neck-and-neck in terms of life expectancy at birth for males and females, while the UN Population Division still gives Japan a slight edge. Still, Hong Kong has accomplished a lot in terms of keeping people alive from birth into old age. And of genuine interest is the fact that researchers there have been trying to figure out why this is true. Here are their hypotheses about long life in Hong Kong:
1. Easy access to everything
2. 'Greener than most'
3. Good hospitals -- for everyone
4. A determined population
5. Good weather
6. A take on the Mediterranean diet
7. The value of family
To the extent that these factors make a difference in Hong Kong, then we might expect them also to show up as causal factors in the other countries with the highest life expectancy, including Japan, Italy, Spain, Australia, Sweden, and Norway. Someone needs to volunteer to do that research...

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