This was always going to be a controversial blog. Can I genuinely claim that a diet of seafood, sunshine and flirty French neighbours will add another five years to your life?
Not quite. But according to 2013 statistics from the UN World Health Organization, it won’t do any harm either. So pass the olive oil, pour yourself a rosé, and read on.
According to the WHO’s official 2013 report, current life expectancy in France is 82 years. For French women, the figures touch 85 years.
That trumps other EU countries like Britain (81 years), Lithuania (76 years) and Romania (74 years). Compared with other leading global economies, the figures are even more marked. Take the USA (78 years), China (73 years) and Russia (a sorry 70 years).
And that’s not even the whole story. Regional differences are massive even within France. Official INSEE Etat Civil statistics from 2009 place the Alpes-Maritimes province just a year behind table-topper Paris in the country’s long-life index. If you’re lucky enough to live on the French Riviera, your life will span an average of three years longer than in the rainy Pas-de-Calais region. We’re not planning to open a Pebbles office there soon.
So what’s the secret? Is steak-frites somehow better than hamburger and chips?
In short, yes it is. The world’s Blue Zones – areas with a massive concentration of centenarians – include Sardinia in Italy, Ikaria in Greece and Okinawa in Japan.
They all share six characteristics, which the Alpes-Maritimes mirrors in almost every way. These include regular social engagement, a daily meditative process (like fixing your fishing nets), and a seafood-heavy semi-vegetarian diet. Order yourself red mullet and ratatouille on the Cours Saleya, people-watch for an hour, then it’s job done.
Or not quite. It seems that only surefire route to virtual eternal life is to move to Monaco. The Principality has the highest life expectancy in the world. The most recent CIA World Factbook gives Monaco a life expectancy at birth (a slightly different definition compared to the UN) at a massive 89.5 years. For women it’s 93.5 years.
The only problem? Some 58% of Monaco’s population are over the age of 55. I’m logging on to a seniors’ dating website right now.