Given Enough Islands, People Will Be Freakishly Long-Lived On One Of Them

A blog about business and economics.
Oct. 25 2012 11:21 AM

Given Enough Islands, People Will Be Freakishly Long-Lived On One Of Them

I really enjoyed Dan Buettner's New York Times Magazine article about the Greek island of Ikaria where people seem freakishly long-lived. But I did have a substantial doubt about it inspired by having recently read and reviewed Nate Silver's book The Signal and the Noise, namely couldn't this just be noise?

An awful lot of the article dwells on healthful aspects of the Ikarian lifestyle, but these mostly seem to be fairly generic aspects of the Mediterranean diet and way of life. And I'm very happy to believe that a diet rich in olive oil and plants and low in satured fat featuring plenty of rest and a strong sense of community is healthy. Certainly there seems to be a good deal of evidence pointing this way, both scientific and social scientific. But the interesting think about Ikaria is precisely that the people there live so much longer than the people on the other Greek Isles or elsewhere in the region. But when you think about it, there are an awful lot of smallish communities on the coastal Mediterranean. On average, those communities have a pretty high life expectancy. But you'd also expect there to be some random variance. And you'd expect one small community or another to simply be a statistical outlier. Only 8,000 people live on Ikaria. They might just happen to have unusually longevity-friendly genetics or have lived longer than your average Greek islander through dumb luck. Trying to delve into the details of exactly how the Ikarian lifestyle differs from the lifestyle in other coastal communities in the region could easily end up being overfitting.


If you have a few hundred islands, then one of them is going to be the island where the people live the longest and there isn't necessarily going to be any particularly deep reason that's the case.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.



Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.

Why all cracker names sound alike.

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Afghan Town With a Legitimately Good Tourism Pitch

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

  News & Politics
Sept. 21 2014 11:34 PM People’s Climate March in Photos Hundreds of thousands of marchers took to the streets of NYC in the largest climate rally in history.
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
Future Tense
Sept. 21 2014 11:38 PM “Welcome to the War of Tomorrow” How Futurama’s writers depicted asymmetrical warfare.
  Health & Science
The Good Word
Sept. 21 2014 11:44 PM Does This Name Make Me Sound High-Fat? Why it just seems so right to call a cracker “Cheez-It.”
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.