Those hoping to live to a ripe, old age (while getting a sweet tan) might want to think about moving to Santa Barbara.
Residents of the coastal California city seem to have discovered the fountain of youth, living to an average 84.4 years, according to government data analyzed in a recent Journal of the American Medical Association paper on life expectancy.
Could Santa Barbara’s dominance be a result of its affluent residents having access to better health care? Not as much as you’d think, says one of the authors of the report, Raj Chetty, a Stanford University economics professor.
“It’s much more associated with healthy behaviors … [such as] less smoking, higher rates of exercise, and lower obesity,” Chetty says. Yet wealth is indeed a key factor in the analysis, which looked at income as well as longevity.
Chetty suggests that wealthier and better-educated inhabitants tend to promote more health-conscious policies and cultures, which benefit the greater community.
“Smoking bans and bans of trans fats affect the health of the entire population,” he notes.
Portland, ME, was next on the longevity list, with its inhabitants reaching a mean 84.3 years. Maybe all that fresh New England air promotes an outdoorsy lifestyle? Or could it be those delicious lobsters?
It was followed by Spokane, WA, at 84.2 years. Those calling Eugene, OR, home typically made it to 84 years.
Residents of yet another Golden State city, Santa Rosa, rounded out the top five. Those living in the city, about an hour north of San Francisco, had a mean lifespan of nearly 83.9 years.
California’s focus on healthier lifestyles, with an abundance of fresh and organic foods, likely plays a part, says longevity expert Alexis Abramson, who has a doctorate in gerontology.
“The keys to longevity are keeping your mind and body active, staying very socialized and engaged with community and work,” she says. “It’s [also] extremely important you have the financial wherewithal to support yourself.”
But those seeking longer lives don’t necessarily need to pack up all their worldly possessions and hire a moving van. Instead, they should try to destress and make a little time for themselves, Abramson says. Eating right and getting enough exercise are also important.
Periodically leave behind the hustle and bustle “and breathe,” she says.
Top 10 cities with the longest life spans
1. Santa Barbara, CA (84.4)
2. Portland, ME (84.3)
3. Spokane, WA (84.2)
4. Eugene, OR (84)
5. Santa Rosa, CA (83.9)
6. Salt Lake City, UT (83.9)
7. Madison, WI (83.8)
8. Minneapolis, MN (83.8)
9. Grand Rapids, MI (83.8)
10. Providence, RI (83.8)