Such is the prediction of an in depth study by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, as published in The Lancet (October 2018), which is not just any publication but the world’s oldest, most prestigious and best known medical journal.
If you think this is all non-sense or a coincidence, then think twice: Spain currently already sits on the 4th place on the WHO (World Health Organisation) list of countries by life expectancy, just behind Japan, Switzerland and Singapore.
How is this possible?
British newspaper The Times, equally stunned about the same fact, recently undertook a musing exercise and came up with the following reasons as to why the Spanish have such a high life expectancy. Some of the alleged reasons are more genuine than others of course, but they all have to do with the Spanish lifestyle. We have added some of our own thoughts to them. Here goes:
- The walk. El paseo as they say here. The Spanish go less to the gym but they do walk a lot. They walk to the office. They walk in their parks. Or on the abundance of sea-side promenades. Any sea town has its very own Paseo Maritimo. It’s part of their culture and traditions.
- The Mediterranean diet. This is probably the most convincing reason. The Spanish do eat a lot of fish, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, pulses, nuts and …. olive oil. A glass of red wine a day has also proven its worth in many studies. And, apparently, only 20% of Spaniards buy processed foods, which are real culprits. In other regions, this percentage is much higher.
- The siesta. Although only 18 % of Spaniards still take a siesta, the Spanish Society of Doctors for Primary Health recommends a daily 26-minute siesta after the midday meal. This would improve memory, mood and keeps the heart healthy. The key is however, that this has to be done regularly to reap the benefits. And the nap should be kept short and sweet. I would like to point out, that the Japanese have a similar practice which improves productivity. And Japan holds the top spot on the same list of life expectancy. This can’t be coincidence. Many companies in Japan even organise facilities for small naps in the workplace. And we in the West, we often talk about the benefits of a ‘powernap’.
- Longer working days interrupted with smaller breaks. The Spanish work an average of 1,687 hours a year. That´s 331 hours more than the Germans, 173 more than the French, 117 more than the Swiss but only 6 hours more than the Brits. However, while the working day finishes at 6pm in most of these countries, the Spanish stay until 8pm or even later. Here in Andalucía, especially during the holiday season and hot summer, businesses are closed between 2pm and 4 pm (Siesta time, remember ?!), but open till 10 pm.
- Tapas in the evening. Rather than having big / heavy dinners, the Spanish eat smaller tapas in the evenings (mixed with plenty of drinks!!). It does make sense. Reducing calorie intake in general helps to live longer and going to bed with a full stomach never is a good thing.
- The Times points out some other, more trivial or hard-to-prove-factors, such as the Spanish having more and better sex, or being better lovers. Or having a more upbeat vocabulary. Okay. Not very convincing but it brings a smile at least.