A recent study came out comparing the general health and life expectancy of 19 countries of similar affluence, including the UK. It concluded that:
The British are less likely to live long and healthy lives than the inhabitants of most European countries – and we also trail Australia and Canada, whose people are more likely to be dancing a jig at a lively old age than we are.
One wonders where we'd be without the NHS, of course, but according to the study "how long and healthily we live is not so much about how hospitals look after us – medical care contributes only about 20% to our healthy lifespans – as how we care for ourselves before we get there."
The Guardian, in interpreting this data, offered up 10 ways to live longer which include moving to Japan. Japan has the highest life expectancy in the world not just because of diet but also because:
"Japanese people give attention to hygiene in all aspects of their daily life. This attitude might partly be attributable to a complex interaction of culture, education, climate [eg humidity, temperature], environment [eg having plenty of water and being a rice-eating nation] and the old Shinto tradition of purifying the body and mind before meeting others."
The rest of the tips are pretty obvious (don't smoke, move more, eat better, don't stress, etc) but this one is a damning indictment of the north-south divide:
A major study published by the British Medical Journal in 2011 found that people who live in the north of England are 20% more likely to die before the age of 75 than those in the south. The researchers from Manchester University said the gap had reached its widest point for 40 years. The reasons are complex. The researchers said that "socioeconomic, environmental, educational, genetic and lifestyle factors" needed to be looked at – as did the reasons why government efforts to bridge the gap fail. On the other hand, it is far easier to find a stunning and uncrowded beach for a jog on the north-east coast – but swerve the fish-and-chip restaurants and make do with a packet of unsalted peanuts.
*compared to our neighbours and allies, anyway.