"The island of long life"

On the Greek island of Ikaria, life is sweet... and very, very long. So what is the locals' secret?

Sociodemographic and Lifestyle Statistics of Oldest Old People (>80 Years) Living in Ikaria Island: The Ikaria Study


«There are places around the world where people live longer and they are active past the age of 100 years, sharing common behavioral characteristics; these places: Sardinia in Italy, Okinawa in Japan, Loma Linda in California and Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica, have been named "Blue Zones". Recently it was reported that people in Ikaria Island, Greece, have also one of the highest life expectancies in the world, and joined the "Blue Zones". The aim of this work was to evaluate various demographic, lifestyle and psychological characteristics of very old (>80) people who participated in Ikaria Study.

During 2009, 1420 people aged (30+) men and women from Ikaria Island, Greece, were voluntarily enrolled in the study. For this work, 89 males and 98 females over the age of 80 years were studied (13% of the sample). Socio-demographic, clinical, psychological and lifestyle characteristics were assessed using standard questionnaires and procedures.

A large proportion of the Ikaria Study's sample was over the age of 80; moreover, the percent of people over 90 were much higher than the European population average. The majority of the oldest old participants reported daily physical activities, healthy eating habits, avoidance of smoking, frequent socializing, mid-day naps and extremely low rates of depression.»

Source: Socio-demographic and Lifestyle Statistics of Oldest Old People (>80 Years) Living in Ikaria Island: The Ikaria Study, Dem. B. Panagiotakos, Chr. Chrysohoou, Ger. Siasos, K. Zisimos, J. Skoumas, Chr. Pitsavos and Christodoulos Stefanadis, Cardiology Research and Practice, (abstract of the Study), August 2010.

Copyright © 2011 Demosthenes B. Panagiotakos et al.

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. 


In Ikaria, a Greek island in the far east of the Mediterranean, about 30 miles from the Turkish coast, characters such as Gregoris Tsahas are not exceptional. 

With its beautiful coves, rocky cliffs, steep valleys and broken canopy of scrub and olive groves, Ikaria looks similar to any number of other Greek islands. 

But there is one vital difference: people here live much longer than the population on other islands and on the mainland. 

In fact, people here live on average 10 years longer than those in the rest of Europe and America - around one in three Ikarians lives into their 90s. Not only that, but they also have much lower rates of cancer and heart disease, suffer significantly less depression and dementia, maintain a sex life into old age and remain physically active deep into their 90s. What is the secret of Ikaria? What do its inhabitants know that the rest of us don't?