Some years ago now some researchers wanted to study the oldest and healthiest populations. They marked these on a map with blue circles. And so these areas came to be known as “Blue Zones”.

There is an on-going project to research these long-lived and healthy people. The results of studying these people – giving us insight into how to live a long and healthy life – are now starting to be presented.

The most accessible presentation of this data is a kind of ‘long and healthy life pyramid’. There are nine factors, organised in a pyramid of four layers, that are shared by all the societies characterised by long and healthy lives. You can find the graphic on the Blue Zones About page.

The foundation is a sense of belonging to a group. This has three components:

  • putting loved ones first
  • connecting with a faith tradition, and
  • surrounding yourself with the ‘right people’.

The next tier in the pyramid is eating wisely. This also has three components:

  • eat 20% less at meals (eat ‘til 70% full or until ‘lightly satisfied’),
  • eat whole foods, mostly plants (to paraphrase Michael Pollan), avoid processed foods, and,
  • the fun one: a couple of glasses of wine daily.

The next tier is concerned with outlook, which they call “Right Outlook”. This only has two components:

  • a sense of purpose, and
  • periods of calm each day.

Finally, at the top of the period there is movement. This is concerned with,

  • moving naturally. That is, having our living spaces organised to encourage movement and moving in ways we love – doing things with our loved ones but also doing activities we love (walking, dancing, gardening, playing and so on)

These nine factors are shared by all those societies characterised by living to a healthy old age. Most encouragingly they are things that are often within our control and can involve small adjustments.  Our health in our old age (with a little luck) is largely within our control – and there are small things we can do that can make a real difference.

These findings I think are remarkably important and quite encouraging.

If you like this post, you might also like:
Ageing Well: can we do anything about it?
Can We Have A Healthy Old Age?
Change the World (one bite at a time)

Would you like to feel less stressed?
Could you do with more joy in your life?

The answer is living authentically. Buy the book or sign up for the course now from my Living Authentically website.

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13 Comments to “Societies Characterised by Healthy Old Age: How They Live”

  1. This is great! Why do we make it all so complicated when it really does boil to these 9 simple things. We all know them in our hearts but living them day to day can be a real challenge.

  2. Evan says:

    Hi Ian, Yeah. I love stuff that boils a big subject down to the simple basics. Thanks for your comment.

  3. I’m not doing too badly, except I don’t drink wine and I sometimes eat until I’m more than 70% full. The food is light though, not too much fat and mostly nutritious plant foods so I’m not too worried.

  4. Evan says:

    Great to hear. Here’s to a long and happy life for you. May you blog for a long time yet.

  5. Lovely, succinct post!

    I know I could eat a lot less (and should do!) and I know I find it hard to relax everyday!

    Thanks, Evan, I’ve printed out and will read every morning and night.


  6. Evan says:

    Hi Andrew, it’s excellent to know this post is valuable to you. This is what makes blogging worthwhile. Thanks for letting me know.

  7. Cheryl says:

    Hi Evan,
    I like the part about finding periods of calm throughout the day. It feels soothing just to read it. So important!
    Thank you,

  8. Evan says:

    Thanks Cheryl, glad you liked it and thanks for the comment.

  9. Amy LeForge says:

    Oooo, interesting study! Sooooo if I don’t happen to drink wine, can I substitute chocolate? LOL.

  10. Evan says:

    Go for it I say! The darker and less sweetened the better as far as I’m concerned!

  11. With “faith” do you mean of the religious sort? Religion has nothing what so ever to do with peace and longevity but is a means of control.

    But whatever happened to music, art, creating things that others can enjoy, talk about or be inspired by?

    Eating less usually indicates a less active life and a reduced demand for calories. But if you need to do less then perhaps the life we have led has been too hectic?

    As long as we stop bragging about ” I’m 88 you know”. Just live for life.

    Just want to remark that the oldest are not necessarily the healthiest. There are those that have contributed very little to our development that are aged.
    No for me, as long as I can function with all of my faculties and continue to create new things, then I’ll be happy when ever my time is up.

    Take good care and get as much joy as you can every day.

  12. I’m sorry, thanks for your post.

  13. Evan says:

    Hi TB, On health. Usually the extra years of the long-lived are in (relative) good health. This is good news. The idea that the extra years are as a vegetable in a nursing home are usually not the case.

    This research is about the social side of the story. So what they report as faith are the social institutions – religions and membership of these institutions. I am doing an eBook that will marry the social perspective with the findings about individuals to answer these kinds of things.

    The role of creativity isn’t addressed by the social pershpective. For me it is part of the story of agency. My interpretation of the Whitehall Studies (see The Status Syndrome) is that what those of higher status have more of is agency. This relates to creativity in my view.

    Eating a lot less while maintaining the same activities is the one known way to increase life span in animals of all classes. There are currently experiments going on with chimps – which is as close as we can get to people. To experiment with this would be effectively starving children and so would have ethical difficulties (to put it kindly). There are adults experimenting with this. It means a diet with less calories than recommended and not being able to get RDI’s for some nutrients. It also means no alcohol, no added sugar, no added fat. It takes someone very dedicated to follow the kind of diet that can extend lifespan (different to being healthy for you current lifespan). If you do a google search for Roy Walford you’ll find lots about this.

    Many thanks for your comment, It’s delightful to find others who engage on these kinds of topics. Hope you have a great day.

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