Spain will be the country with the highest life expectancy in 2040, if current trends continue. If the projections are met, the Spaniards will advance the inhabitants of Japan, Switzerland and Singapore to place themselves in the 85.8 years of life expectancy at birth, compared to 82.9 now. This is the conclusion of A study that researchers from the University of Washington spread last week in the medical journal The Lancet. There are innumerable factors that influence life expectancy, but one in particular is key to explaining the historical longevity of Spaniards: the Mediterranean diet.
The Predimed study Ministry of Health, published this year, found that the Mediterranean diet with olive oil or nuts protects against cardiovascular disease, main cause of mortality in the world. According to the Institute for Metrics and Health Assessment (IHME), which has developed the projection for the year 2040, the biggest global burdens to the growth of life expectancy will be obesity, hypertension, high blood sugar and the consumption of alcohol and tobacco. The main author of the work, Christopher Murray, has said to The Guardian that Spain "does very well" in these areas (except tobacco), and that it has a particularly favorable diet.
This month, an analysis Many studies published by an Italian team in the British Journal of Nutrition show that people over 65 who eat a Mediterranean diet live longer. In addition, they found that the increase in their longevity is proportional to their diet follow-up. However, experts warn that food in Spain is "globalizing" with the adoption of less healthy habits and foods, so that the benefits of the Mediterranean diet and its role as an extension of life expectancy in the country every time They charge less importance.
"We have been a very agrarian country with food of seasonal proximity", says the Demographer Julio Pérez, of the Center for Human and Social Sciences of the CSIC. "But the nutrition of young people at this time is very different from that of their parents, and even more so that of their grandparents. The franchise food is coming in and with that we are equating very quickly [a otros países]", Explain. Pau Miret, researcher at the Center for Demographic Studies of the Autonomous University of Barcelona, believes that the Spanish diet has been decisive but "is no longer a very different factor to that of France, Portugal or other neighboring countries" and that probably will not be the key to a prolonged increase in longevity.
Accepting that past trends do not have to continue in the future is fundamental to interpreting predictions of life expectancy, recalls Pérez. According to the researcher, the projections are useful but should be reviewed every year because "they are never fulfilled". The study that positions the life expectancy of Spain at the world head for 2040 is based on a corrected extrapolation of the observations between 1990 and 2016. The prediction will only be fulfilled if the trend drawn between those years continues.
Experts agree that this is unlikely. "In Spain, we have been living late to improve the life expectancy of the twentieth century," explains Pérez. While many Western countries had incredible increases in health, education and economy at the beginning of the last century, in Spain they reached the end, due in part to the Civil War and its consequences. "The generational leap is a factor that I do not tire of emphasizing, very inherent in demographic analysis," says the researcher. Miret adds that before the turn of the century deaths in traffic accidents and AIDS were drastically reduced in Spain. "Now we get even higher in a high proportion, when we came from a very dodgy life," Perez continues. "If that trend is what we project, of course we're going ahead of everyone."
Even if Spain does not finally become the country with the longest life expectancy, it is true that something works so that it currently ranks fourth in the table of 195 nations. In addition to the abundance of fruits and vegetables, experts point to the good functioning of the public health system as a reason why Spaniards are long-lived.
Despite their waiting times and the documented shortage of nurses, the National Health System covers 99.9% of the population Spanish, achieving one of the lowest treatable mortality rates in Europe. The IHME grants the Spanish health system the Nineteenth position of the world based on the incidence of 32 preventable causes of death and, for its part, the World Health Organization (WHO) classifies seventh according to the efficiency of the service. "It is one of the health systems that best resists, despite the onslaught of the crisis," says Miret.
According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), since 2000, most of the increase in life expectancy in Spain has been due to the reduction of mortality after 65 years In part, this is thanks to excellent medical care, but Pérez points again to the generational change: "When you see that life expectancy improves because mortality drops in people who are now 70 and 80 years old, you are reaping the benefits of how He has improved his whole life since they were born, not just how they are treated now, "he recalls.
So far the experts agree. Other factors may be important but are more difficult to evaluate. Several sources suggest that traditional Spanish customs such as napping or the daily walk could have their role. There are also those who point to genetic idiosyncrasies to explain the abundance of centenarians in Spain, although Pérez categorically discards that this is a homogeneous factor of the country's population. What is quite clear is that life expectancy in health is not reaching the total life expectancy: older people in Spain continue to suffer, on average, the last 10 years of life with health problems and dependency, for many years they live.