Life expectancy – simple changes to benefit from France’s good stats

What can we learn from the French about living longer?

France has one of the highest life expectancies in Western Europe
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Recent figures show people in France live longer, on average, than those in many other Western countries. We take a look at some simple changes you can make to improve your longevity.

Read more: MAP: See how life expectancy rates vary across France

Life expectancy in France 

In France, life expectancy for women is 85.75 and for men is 80.03 according to 2023 data from national statistics institute, INSEE. 

This is higher than in the UK, where life expectancy was 82.6 for women and 78.6 for men for the period 2020-2022, according to the Office of National Statistics.

France has also seen a “spectacular rise” in centenarians, according to the latest demographic figures

Read more: More than 31,000 in 2024: Spectacular rise in centenarians in France

So what can we learn from the French when it comes to living a long and healthy life?

Get active 

Many people who move to France notice French people stay active well into old age, one habit that contributes to their longevity. 

So make sure you tap into the French active way of life: do more walking, take up a new sport or hit the slopes to make the most of some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the world. 

Frenchwoman Jeanne Calment, the oldest ever living person according to official records, died aged 122 in 1997, and stayed active well into her old age. Many French people put her longevity down to riding a bicycle until she was 100, her New York Times obituary noted. 


Many people move to France with the aim of living a more laid-back life and embracing the often slower pace could be vital for contributing to your longevity. 

Many studies have shown increased stress can shorten our life spans. 

“My life is fuller and more importantly slower, so I have time to really savour each moment,” Kylie Lang, 52, who moved to France from the UK in 2016, recently told The Connexion. 

Read more: How do people change when they move to France?


Maintaining strong social bonds is essential as we get older. 

Some 80% of French people over the age of 65 have at least weekly contact with family, while 53% have at least weekly contact with friends, according to 2023 INSEE data

Join a club, take up a new hobby or join a local association to keep your social life flourishing. 

Read more: Seven tips to help you integrate in France

Eat well 

Both Jeanne Calment and Lucile Randon, a French nun also known as Sister André who was the oldest living person until she died in January 2023 aged 118, lived in the south of France, home of the famed – and very healthy – Mediterranean diet.

Make sure you are eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, as well as pulses and grains, fish, and healthy fats such as olive oil. 

Read more: Why have olive oil prices shot up in France? How long will it last?


Long-living Frenchwomen Jeanne Calment was known for her wry sense of humour. “I’ve only ever had one wrinkle and I’m sitting on it,” she famously once told an interviewer. 

A 15-year Norwegian study of 50,000 people found those who had a strong sense of humour lived longer than those who did not.

So try to see the funny side of life and make sure to indulge in plenty of laughter. 

Read more: Funny you should say that – the language of French laughter

Another twist in the tale of Jeanne Calment is that in 1965, aged 90, she signed over her apartment to a local lawyer, who was 47. 

He would pay her a monthly amount and inherit the apartment when she died, under the French viager system. He died aged 77 in 1995, when Jeanne Calment was 120 years old. 

Read more: Buying and selling a home in France: What is the viager system?

His children had to continue paying her the monthly sum. In all, the family ended up paying over double what the apartment was worth. 

The viager system inspired the French film Le Viager, in 1972. 

Drink wine 

When Sister André, the world’s oldest person until her death in 2023, was asked her secret she attributed her longevity to her daily glass of wine, as well as her “guilty secret” – chocolate. 

Red wine has long been touted as being good for your heart when drunk in moderation, and with France being one of the world’s biggest wine-producing countries, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to that occasional tipple. 

Read more: Five tips for drinking better wine in France without spending more