IDF Service Increases Life Expectancy in Men, Study
A new study has found a connection between longer life expectancy among men in Israel and military service as a result of physical fitness during regular service and reserves.
According to data from the World Health Organization, the average life expectancy of a man in Israel in 2013 was 81 years, compared to an average life expectancy of 77.7 years for a man in other advanced countries and a world average of 68.8.
This figure puts Israel in second place among 170 countries, along with Iceland, Singapore and Switzerland. In first place sits the microstate of San Marino.
The criteria for assessing life expectancy takes into account overall development of the country, national expenditure on health, population growth and density, fertility rate, and other factors.
According to these criteria, life expectancy in Israel should be lower, according to the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel. As such, researchers set out to find out why life expectancy in Israel is higher.
Researchers led by Prof. Alex Weinreb examined data from 133 countries and estimated that military service adds an additional three years to the lives of men. Three of the four top countries in the world in life expectancy among men have mandatory military service (Israel, Switzerland and Singapore), while among the top five OECD countries, only one (Japan) has not had mandatory military service in the last 30 years.
While the authors note that compulsory military service is not the only factor in longevity, there is evidence supporting a positive impact on public health. One of the characteristics of IDF service is physical exercise and according to data in Israel, there is a low mortality rate for diseases that are related to levels of physical fitness, such as heart and vascular diseases and certain types of cancer.
The conclusion is further reinforced when examining similar data for both Arabs and Jews. Arabs as a whole rarely serve in Israel’s armed forces and according to data from the Ministry of Health, the rate of diagnoses of heart and vascular disease among Arabs is higher than that among Jews.
Other studies have found that countries situated along a coast also have higher life expectancies. Similarly, there is also a positive relationship between religion and health. However, according to research, military service is the most significant factor that affects life expectancy in Israel.
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