The Okinawa Centenarian StudyAging successfullyMore about the Okinawa Centenarian StudyMeet the centenariansMeet the research teamContact the OCS team
Why Okinawans live long, healthy lives
Welcome to The Okinawa Centenarian Study!

Elderly Okinawans have among the lowest mortality rates in the world from a multitude of chronic diseases of aging and as a result enjoy not only what may be the world's longest life expectancy but the world's longest health expectancy. Centenarians, in particular, have a history of aging slowly and delaying or sometimes escaping the chronic diseases of aging including dementia, cardiovascular disease (coronary heart disease and stroke) and cancer. The goal of the Okinawa Centenarian Study is to uncover the genetic and lifestyle factors responsible for this remarkable successful aging phenomenon for the betterment of the health and lives of all people.

The Okinawa Centenarian Study (OCS) is an ongoing population-based study of centenarians and other selected elderly, in the Japanese prefecture of Okinawa that began in 1975. Ages are validated through the koseki, the Japanese family registration system. At the baseline exam a full geriatric assessment is performed, including physical exam and activities of daily living. Since the onset of the OCS, limited information on the demographics of the entire centenarian population of Okinawa has been collected and full assessments of a sub-sample of 900-plus centenarians have been performed.

US life expectancy poor compared with Okinawa and other long-lived populations

When Dr. Suzuki, the Principal Investigator of the OCS, first began his studies, he found an unusual number of centenarians to be in extraordinarily healthy shape. They were lean, youthful-looking, energetic, and had remarkably low rates of heart disease and cancer-even stomach cancer, which claimed many mainland Japanese. And they enjoyed the longest life expectancy in the world. By 1995, according to Japan Ministry of Health and Welfare life tables, Okinawan life expectancy had even surpassed the absolute limits of population life expectancy estimated by the Japan Population Research Institute and many biodemographers (see Fries JF. New England Journal of Medicine 1980;303:131-5).

Mortality Rates in Long-Lived Populations
Age Adjusted Death Rates (per 100,000 people)
Rank* Location Life Expectancy Eating Pattern CHD** Cancer Stroke All Causes
1 Okinawa 81.2 East-West 18 97 35 335
2 Japan 79.9 Asian 22 106 45 364
3 Hong Kong 79.1 Asian 40 126 40 393
4 Sweden 79.0 Nordic 102 108 38 435
8 Italy 78.3 Mediterranean 55 135 49 459
10 Greece 78.1 Mediterranean 55 109 70 449
18 USA 76.8 American 100 132 28 520

* Average life expectancy world rank
** Coronary Heart Disease
Sources: World Health Organization 1996; Japan Ministry of Health and Welfare 1996

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