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10 Countries With the Longest Life Expectancy

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Having been a health care junkie for the better part of a decade now, I still stop and marvel at how impressively global life expectancy rates have improved over the past couple of decades, especially considering that the World Health Organization lists 12,420 possible different health-related diseases, disorders, and ailments that humans can be afflicted by. You might go so far as to say that select countries with the longest life expectancy have a leg up on everyone else.

According to WHO, life expectancies around the globe have improved by approximately 10% over roughly two decades, from 64 years in 1990 to 70 years in 2011. I suspect there are multiple tangible and intangible factors at work here which are helping fuel this trend of improved life expectancy at birth.

Source: Robby Schulze, Flickr.

As The Huffington Post noted in May, the heart of this increase has come about through dramatic reduction in child mortality rates, as well as a seven-year improvement in life expectancy in India and China, which account for close to 30% of the world's population.

Other factors which would be expected to have some positive bearing on life expectancies include better disease awareness, improved access to vaccines and immunizations (the primary reason for lower child mortality rates), higher levels of social program spending in developing nations, and a growing middle class in certain countries, which has led to a wealthier and healthier lifestyle. While poverty is by no means eliminated, it has been reduced dramatically in select countries where it ran rampant two decades ago, leading to improvements such as people getting more nutritious meals.

I firmly believe all of these factors have contributed to the global upswing in life expectancy in nearly all of the world's 223 countries.

The 10 countries with the longest life expectancy
I think it prudent to more closely examine the 10 countries with the longest life expectancy to see if there are trends inherent in these countries which could not only help us live longer, but perhaps invest better.

Here are the 10 countries, according to the 2013 estimates from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, with the longest life expectancy: 


Life Expectancy at Birth, in Years









San Marino








Hong Kong




Source: Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook, 2013 estimates.

Two factors that clearly stand out based on these 10 countries is that a high standard cost of living can play into increased life expectancy, and that diet can be extremely important to longevity.

Monaco, Source: Salvatore Freni Jr.

Obviously, some of these countries skew the results a bit since five of the 10 have populations below 600,000. These small, but exclusive, countries have extremely high costs of living, requiring residents to be upper-income individuals. Generally speaking, upper-income individuals are able to afford top-tier medical care that many other people around the world simply don't have access to. The ability to get regular preventive care and any medication available, regardless of cost, is a luxury few can afford.

We also have to understand that with many of these countries having higher-tier incomes, their citizens have access to a wider and more nutritious variety of food. Within the U.S., which ranked all the way down at No. 51, by the way, with an estimated life expectancy of 78.62 years, socioeconomic factors such as household income do influence eating habits and can push lower-income citizens into eating fast food. Not surprisingly, states in the lower spectrum of household income in the U.S. tend to have higher incidences of obesity and other health-related ailments like diabetes and hypertension.

Finally, in addition to socioeconomic factors, cultures can play an important role in determining life expectancy. Red meat consumption, for example, is a lot lower in Japan, Macau, Hong Kong, and Singapore, where there is increased fish intake. While all foods have their positives and negatives, most Asia-based countries on this list have extremely low fat content intake which helps their presumably superior cardiovascular health.

How this can make you money
While these data are "cool" -- at least for numbers nerds like myself who enjoy statistics -- they may also be able to help us invest better.

Source: chaosemerald, Flickr.

Earlier, if you recall, I mentioned the ability of upper-income individuals to have better access to health care in both the smaller European and Asian countries on this top 10 list. In Asia, specifically Japan, with its population of 127.6 million as of 2012, according to the World Bank, branded pharmaceutical companies such as Takeda Pharmaceutical (NASDAQOTH: TKPYY  ) and Eisai (NASDAQOTH: ESALY  ) might make attractive investments.

These might not be household names in the U.S., but they do brandish global licensing partnerships with companies that might be more familiar to you. Takeda, for example, has licensing agreements in place with Orexigen Therapeutics (NASDAQ: OREX  ) , which recently filed a New Drug Application for its chronic weight management (i.e., anti-obesity) pill, Contrave, in the U.S. Takeda owns the right to Contrave outside of North America. In addition, Takeda is a collaborative partner of antibody-drug conjugate developer Seattle Genetics (NASDAQ: SGEN  ) with regard to FDA-approved Hodgkin lymphoma drug Adcetris

You'll find similar impressive partnerships with Eisai. Ironically, while Takeda is licensing weight-loss drug Contrave, Eisai is licensing weight control management drug Belviq from Arena Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ARNA  ) . Perhaps Eisai's most well-known strategic co-promotion is its marketing collaboration with Pfizer for Alzheimer's disease drug Aricept.  

Also consider the simple fact that people who are living longer may rely on their country's health care system for a longer period of time. Investors who would classify themselves as more aggressive and willing to venture overseas might be wise to give Ramsay Health Care (ASX: RHC  ) a closer look. This company is an operator of 151 hospitals and day surgery facilities in both Australia and the United Kingdom. Despite its enormous size Australia's population was less than 23 million according to the World Bank as of 2012, leaving its citizens who are living longer ample opportunities to get care at a Ramsay-owned health-care facility.

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Sean Williams

A Fool since 2010, and a graduate from UC San Diego with a B.A. in Economics, Sean specializes in the healthcare sector and in investment planning topics. You'll usually find him writing about Obamacare, marijuana, developing drugs, diagnostics, and medical devices, Social Security, taxes, or any number of other macroeconomic issues.

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