Local Vibes
August 10, 2012
Bequia, Barrouallie might have recipe to long life in SVG

Vincentians hoping to live well beyond the local life expectancy may wish to pay close attention to the lives of the residents of this country’s two whaling communities.{{more}}

Figures obtained from the Registry Department show that Bequia and Barrouallie had the highest incidences of persons who died at age 90 and over, between January 2001 and December 2011.

Of the 731 recorded deaths of persons 90 years or over in that period, 38 persons lived in Bequia, 25 in Barrouallie, 23 in Mesopotamia, 22 in Georgetown, and 22 in Kingstown.

Epidemiologist Dr Jennifer George said that although the Ministry of Health does not have the statistical or scientific evidence to explain these findings, differences in lifestyle, diet and exercise/activity of the deceased in their younger years played a role in their longevity.

Currently, life expectancy in St Vincent and the Grenadines is 74.2 years, with women at 76.1 years and men, slightly lower, at 72.3 years. However, those figures stand for persons born in 2011.

While data on the life expectancy at birth of Vincentians born over 90 years ago is not available, a paper published on the Economic History Association website said black persons born in the United States in late 19th century and early 20th century had a life expectancy of 41 to 47 years.

“Life expectancy is at different rates [worldwide] because … we are exposed to different diseases,” George explained.

Of significance is the fact that in the last local poverty assessment, Bequia had the lowest incidence of poverty, while Georgetown and Sandy Bay — which recorded 15 ‘over 90’ deaths — had the highest.

This suggests that poverty may not play as significant a role in how long a person lives in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), as may have been thought.

The figures also showed that the number of women who died at age 90 and over almost doubled that of the men — which is in keeping with the global trend.

“Men are more propensed to having … accidents, injuries and [exposed to] violence,” said George. “They are the persons that are involved in assaults, suicide and motor vehicle accidents … Their lifestyle is what leads to them having a lower life expectancy.”

In addition, the figures showed that of those who died within that 10-year period, 49 of them were 100 years old and over – the oldest having died in 2006 at age 111, hailing from Campden Park.

Barrouallie recorded four centenarian deaths; Campden Park and Chateaubelair recorded three each; and Union Island, Richmond Hill, Rillan Hill, Fair Hall, Prospect and Kingstown recorded two each.

George said that although there has never been an official study into longevity in SVG, it is not something that would be ruled out in future.

She, however, pointed out that a national health and nutrition survey will be coming on board in the immediate future.

“It’s a risk factor survey, which is going to be … population-based … to assess risk factors for chronic diseases. This has never been done in SVG before,” George said.

She explained that local life expectancy is “highly affected” by chronic diseases.

“Because of the shift of diseases from communicable to non-communicable, you find persons are coming down now with premature chronic diseases. So, you’d have a 45-year-old having a hypertensive disease … stroke or cancers,” she added.

“Before, you would have that occurring in 60 to 70-year-olds.”

George said the findings of the national health and nutrition survey will be used to “shape and fashion our wellness strategy to combat chronic diseases”.

She also said that she hopes the thrust toward combatting chronic disease will eventually lead to an increase in life expectancy in SVG.

Referring to the increase in chronic diseases through poor diet and lifestyle choices, George said: “If we continue the way we are going, we won’t.”