September 7, 2009 / 12:42 PM / in 8 years

Live long and prosper: Factbook has the answer

LONDON (Reuters) - Searching for the secret to a long and happy life?

<p>An elderly woman exercises with wooden dumbbells during a health promotion event to mark Japan's "Respect for the Aged Day" at a temple in Tokyo September 15, 2008. REUTERS/Toru Hanai</p>

Then watch your back in Belize, keep off Qatar’s roads and consider moving to Japan, where people live the longest and have access to the most hospital beds.

That’s the message from the latest edition of The Economist magazine’s annual book of global economic statistics and quirky facts, “Pocket World in Figures.”

Often described as the fact-lover’s Bible, it covers more than 200 subjects in 189 countries, from GDP figures and exports to internet and obesity rates, and is sold around the world.

Japan tops the life expectancy table with an average of 82.7 years, ahead of Andorra, Hong Kong and Italy. Bottom of the pile are Afghanistan (43.8 years) and Zimbabwe (44.1).

In a quality of life table, Japan was ranked 8th in the world, with Iceland and Norway tied for the top place, followed by Canada and Australia.

“If you don’t have the facts, you can never really get close to the truth,” its editor Stephen Brough told Reuters. “People love accumulating information and surprising their friends.”

RECESSION LAID BARE

The global recession’s effects are clear: the United States has slipped out of the top 10 of “good places to do business,” while Britain fell to 19th from 11th, equal with Chile.

Quiz lovers will enjoy entries such as the world’s busiest airport (Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta), biggest company by market capitalization (PetroChina) and the country with the cheapest Big Macs (Malaysia).

The world’s murder hotspot is Belize, central America, with a rate of 32.7 per 100,000 people. By comparison, the United States ranked 20th with 5.6.

Qatar suffered four times more injuries in road accidents per 100,000 people than the second-placed country, Kuwait, and tied with South Africa for the most road deaths.

On a brighter note, the biggest beer drinkers were the Venezuelans, ahead of the Czechs, while the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe had the highest champagne sales per head.

Brough, who has worked on the book since the first edition in 1991, says he remembers many of the facts, but he is not quite the perfect quiz team member.

“I retain some of it,” he said. “But I am not 100 percent reliable.”

Editing by Steve Addison

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