The Italian Almanac

long and happy life

Italian News - October 28

The inhabitants of the often overlooked Marche region in central Italy learned this week that statistically at least they have something to shout about. As a national group, Italians already outlive most other Europeans and Marche, on the eastern slopes of the Apennines, seems to be the place where conditions combine to produce maximum longevity.

The average life expectancy for the region's inhabitants is now 78 for men and 84 for women, according to national statistics bureau Istat. This compares to EU averages of 75.1 and 81.6. The secret of why the 'Marchigiani' live longer appears to be tied up with the unhurried country lifestyle that most of them lead. Two thirds of the region's land are still given over to farming.

The region, once one of the main granaries of the Roman empire, is rich in vineyards, olive groves, orchards and wheat fields. Being a coastal region, fresh fish is also readily available. Farmers' union Coldiretti agreed that diet probably had a lot to do with the long lives of the Marchigiani. "A healthy way of life is closely linked to eating habits and in Marche these still depend on local produce".

But some observers also pointed out that in the region's towns and villages, the over-60s - who make up about a third of the population - are also part of an active social scene. Instead of facing the loneliness and isolation that often await the old in more urban regions, they frequently have busy lives, involving dancing classes, sports, and an active involvement in the life of the extended family.