Italy – Second Healthiest Country in the World

Italy has one of the most efficient healthcare systems in the world and the Italian universal healthcare system has actually been getting better and better from year to year. This is great news for Italy’s health Care system. This month, Bloomberg Rankings rated Italy the second healthiest country in the world and the top ranked country for health in all of Europe. This health score is based on several factors including, mortality rates, number of people smoking, the percentage of immunizations, the percentage of population with healthcare, healthcare efficiency, healthcare satisfaction and life expectancy.

The Bloomberg rankings are based on countries that have a population of at least 1 million and provide a health score and a health-risk score. Each country’s place was calculated by subtracting their risk score from their health score. The health score is based on such factors as life expectancy and causes of death, while health-risk is based on factors which could negatively impact health, such as the proportion of young people who smoke, the number of people with high cholesterol and the number of immunizations.

Singapore has been named the world’s healthiest country, using data from the United Nations, the World Bank and the World Health Organization, with an overall score of 89.45 percent. Italy ranked second healthiest with 89.07 percent. Australia came third with a score of 88.33 percent.

As good as the Italian healthcare system is, the most common complaint are long lines and waiting times for special tests and for seeing specialists. Most of the population was very satisfied with the medical care that they receive from their doctors and also the universal aspect of the system.

Healthcare spending in Italy accounted for 9.2 percent of GDP in 2012 (about $3,200 per capita) of which about 77 percent is public, slightly lower than the average of 9.3 percent in the top 20 industrialized nations in the world.

Fresh ingredients, olive oil, proper portions—key to the healthy Italian lifestyle.

Fresh ingredients, olive oil, proper portions—key to the healthy Italian lifestyle.

One of the main reasons for Italians staying so healthy is the way they eat. There is the Mediterranean diet itself, fish, fresh vegetables, fruit and the use of olive oil in cooking. Meats in Italy are not eaten in the same portions as one will find in the U.S. and the amount of fat in the meats they prefer is also less. Meat is eaten as a separate course in smaller quantities, if at all. Lean pork is popular. In general, the Mediterranean Diet, especially with its use of olive oil over butter. Olive oil is considered to be a much better choice for your arteries. People who use olive oil tend to have a lower risk factor of both heart attacks and strokes. Another healthy component in the Italian diet is garlic, which lowers the chance of heart disease, lowers blood pressure and helps to prevent strokes. It also is very high in antioxidants and is considered to aide in the prevention of Alzheimer's disease.

Even some of the traditional dishes that we associate with the Italian diet are consumed differently than you will find over here. Pasta and pizza are prime examples. Italians eat simple pizzas with healthier toppings, rather than slices overloaded with fatty or greasy toppings. Additionally, you will find that although pasta is often one of the dishes during dinner, it is not served in large servings. Another attribute of the Italian manner of eating is the way the family comes together at dinnertime. Most families in Italy eat the family meal together and at the same time. This is a feature that is important for relieving stress in life and assists in promoting a feeling of well-being, affording a sense of comfort to la famiglia.

The life expectancy for Italians is 83 years, tied with Spain, Australia, Switzerland and Singapore for the second longest in the world. Another One more reason why Italians might be living longer is the inherent exercise in their daily routines. Many Italians in towns throughout Italy take a walk after dinner, usually with their family members and children—the Passeggiata. Communing with neighbors and relatives while talking a leisurely stroll through town adds to one's well-being.

In addition, the number of hills and steps the average Italian has to negotiate in their daily lives is much more than in the U.S. Most towns were built in an era of feudal warfare, causing them to be built on top of hills and cliffs for protection of their community. As a result, many towns are very hilly, containing thousands of steps and inclines. In the rural towns if Italy, exercise is something that most people get, whether they plan on it or not!

It seems that Italians take pride in the saying—La salute prima di tutto!—Health is first of all!

How did other countries fare on the list? Australia finished in third place and Switzerland was fourth. At the other end of the scale, the African country of Swaziland was named the least healthiest country in the world, scoring an overall grade of just 0.26 percent.

The Healthiest Countries in the World The Least Healthiest Countries in the World
1. Singapore
2. Italy
3. Australia
4. Switzerland
5. Japan
6. Israel
7. Spain
8. Netherlands
9. Sweden
10. Germany
1. Swaziland
2. Lesotho
3. Democratic Republic of Congo
4. Chad
5. Mozambique
6. Burundi
7. Malawi
8. Angola
9. Uganda
10. Cameroon

The U.S. came in 33rd on the list, right below the Czech Republic and above Bosnia and Herzegovina. Most Americans should consider this to be embarrassing. Obesity, diabetes, lack of exercise all contribute to this, but how can a country with the most advanced medical technology available and some of the best hospitals in the world score so poorly? There must be something inherently wrong with the system. By the way, Cuba came in at 28 on the list. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the total health care spending in the U.S. is 18 percent of gross domestic product—the highest in the world. This is double that of Italy. The Health and Human Services Department expects that the health expense percent of GDP will continue its historical upward trend, reaching 19.5 percent of GDP by 2017. As far as how long we live in the U.S., our life expectancy in the U.S. is 79 years—34th in the world.

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