Live Long...And Prosper?

By Julia Caranci

In his study, "Aging in Japan", longevity expert Dr. Hideo Ibe has discovered a troubling and potentially irreversible trend. Regardless of which forecast is applied, a significant decrease in the working age population and sharp rise in the number of elderly persons could spell disaster for the island nation.

Elderly Japanese people By 1998 the population over those 65 years of age in Japan exceeded the population of those under 15. Even assuming the low birthrate continues doesn't continue to drop below its present pace, the population of Japan could fall to less than 100 million by the year 2051 and to 60 million by the year 2100, according to Ibe.

The result would be a dwindling labor force, and reduced insurance premiums and taxpaying capabilities in the younger generations. This is turn could bring about an economic decline, and it is feared the sources of revenue required to maintain the present social system which cares for many of the elderly will be threatened. In particular, it will no longer be possible to maintain the extremely generous welfare measures currently in place for senior citizens. Surveys of the public consistently show that the number one concern for Japanese citizens is the future of the welfare system, with the vast majority doubtful that the state will be able to support them in their old age.

Regardless of the potential issues raised by the fact the Japanese are living such long lives, most would agree the trend is a positive one.

It's difficult to say with any certainty whether diet or a combination of diet and other factors are behind the longevity in Japan. Many countries now boast much longer life spans than ever before.

It is estimated that there are between 300 and 450 people 110 years of age and older in the world just a few decades ago living to such an age would have been thought a fiction.

So eat your sushi and your vegetables not only are they delicious, but they may hold the secret to a longer life.