According to recent World Health Organization (WHO) data, Israeli men rank eighth highest in life expectancy, averaging 82.5 years. The average life expectancy found in an OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) study of 34 countries was 77.7 years and the world average is 68.8 years.
Noting the significance of these findings, a new study by The Taub Center for Social Policy Studies seems to have found a correlation between longevity and military service, opening the door towards further academic research between the connection of general health and serving in the army.
The Taub Center studied 130 countries, taking into consideration various factors including wealth, education levels, health care quality and availability, and general demographic profiles. Their analysis found that military service added more than three years to men’s lives.
“In many ways, The Taub Center findings run counter-intuitive to what people might think about serving in the military,” noted Dr. John A.I. Grossman, Chairman of LIBI USA. “We know that serving in the Israeli army and protecting the Land of Israel and her people is a holy act. Now we also know that it helps maintain one’s health and longevity.”
Israeli men’s longevity beat out France, whose average male lifespan is 79.4 years and the US, whose average male lifespan is 77 years. The 2015 WHO study found that the present average life expectancy worldwide is 71 years. Japan has the highest general life expectancy with 86.8 years.
Following analysis of the noted criteria, which are responsible for an estimated 80 percent of the variances in life expectancy, Professor Alex Weinreb, a principal researcher at The Taub Center, stated that mandatory military service seems to be the glaring factor which made the statistical difference. More so, once the other factors were accounted for, actual life expectancy in Israel was found to be even higher by a 6.3-7.2 years.
“Israel’s unusually high life expectancy has actually been recognized for the past 20 years and consistently is increasing,” shared Grossman. “One of the hypotheses which seems to be panning out is that military service involves high levels of physical activity, even for men in their 40’s, aiding life expectancy.”
In fact, the researchers found that the majority of the countries with the highest life expectancy have compulsory military service.
Other factors taken into account in the study were the health benefits of living near a coastline, living closer than 40 degrees to the equator and level of religiosity. Various studies have consistently found a positive relationship between religiosity and health, in both developed and developing countries. All of these factors are attributed to adding approximately 2.1 years of life in general and in relation to Israeli men.
The Taub Center actually correlates Israel’s high expenditure in the military with Israeli men’s longevity. It found that if Israel did not have compulsory military service and a large financial expenditure in the military, male life expectancy would probably be much lower.
Professor Weinreb stated, “It is possible to influence health through investment in institutions that are not directly related to health care, and, in Israel, the army is one of the agencies with a particular status that allows it to impact public health.”
Yehuda Kahane, Professor of Insurance and Finance and Head of the Akirov Institute for Business and the Environment at Tel-Aviv University, believes that the difficulties of life in Israel are actually beneficial to one’s health. In his opinion, the toughness one acquires by living in a war torn country gives a purpose and significance to life which increases longevity.
“Unfortunately, it often takes a war to bring about social cohesion and the relationships that are built through uniting to survive appears to have a positive influence on life expectancy,” continued Grossman. “Studies consistently find that Israelis feel that they have a purpose to life and this helps to prolong their lives. Though nobody wants war, these studies remind us of the importance of supporting the Israeli army.”