Just because Japan has been ranked number one in life expectancy and healthy life expectancy for the past twenty years doesn’t mean that the people and the government should be complacent. This is according to Kenji Shibuya, a professor of Global Health Policy at the University of Tokyo and one of the lead researchers in the “2010 Global Burden of Disease”, published in The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation and The Lancet Journal.
In their latest research, they’ve found that Japan has been concentrating on the three leading causes of death which are cancer, heart disease, and stroke. But they have failed to study if they are causing a burden as diseases, which has led the government to not creating effective health care policies. He said that the results of their studies show that lower back pain is the greatest threat to Japan’s health because it leads to stroke, ischemic heart disease, pneumonia, and other musculoskeletal diseases. Suicide is another threat to the national health, especially in the growing number of young people who resort to taking their own lives to deal with bullying and abuse. Alzheimer’s Disease is also another potential threat, now ranked as the 8th highest burden for Japanese people due to the greying population of Japan.
Healthy life expectancy is defined as life expectancy minus the number of years spent afflicted with a disease. Even if a country’s life expectancy is high, but if many of its people are either bedridden or have a mental disease, then it’s not a good sign of their health conditions. Japan’s life expectancy rose in 2010, from 82 years in 1990 to 85.9 years for women and then to 79.3 years in 2010 from 76 years in 1990 for men. But Japanese women enjoy healthy lives for only 71.7 years and men for only 68.8 years. This means that a lot of the middle-aged and elderly have some kind of disease. He also said that even though Japanese food has a reputation for being healthy, it is also low in fat, high in sodium, and lacks nutrients from fruits, nuts, and whole grains. Add to that high blood pressure, smoking problems, mental health issues, and the ageing population, and Shibuya says it’s time for Japan to look towards achieving real longevity from national policies to individual practice.
[ via Huffington Post ]