If you want to live longer, move to the tiny Greek island of Ikaria. According to one study, the combination of diet, happiness, social support, regular napping and frequent sex there means that “Ikarians reach the age of 90 at 2½ times the rate Americans do, and suffer only about a quarter the rate of dementia. They also live 10 years longer than Americans before contracting cancer or cardiovascular disease, and suffer much less from depression.” The Ikarian diet is a major factor in the islanders’ longevity. Meat is only eaten about five times a month; fresh fish twice a week. Staples include goat’s milk, wine, honey, sage tea, bread, greens and seasonal vegetables. Olive oil, which reduces ‘bad cholesterol’, is consumed regularly.
Ikarians also nap a lot, which has been shown to reduce cardiovascular disease. And when they’re not in bed napping, they’re, er, otherwise occupied. “80 per cent of Ikarian men between the ages of 65 and 100 claim to have regular sex, a quarter of whom say that they are doing it with ‘good duration’ and ‘achievement’.” The inherent sense of community on the island, though, may be the main reason why the islanders live so long. “Ikarians live in an interconnected web of community and never feel alone,” writes William Reville. “Crime rates are low because everyone watches everyone else; everyone grows a garden; the cheapest, most accessible foods are also the healthiest; Ikaria is hilly so everyone gets exercise; Ikarians drink herbal tea and a few glasses of wine with friends at the end of the day, and on Sunday they go to church. The entire Ikarian ecosystem supports life, enmeshing people in such healthy contentment that one old woman has put it thus: ‘We just forget to die.'”