Italy is the World’s Healthiest Country

The news site Bloomberg has released its Global Health Index  and (surprise!) Italy is the world’s healthiest country.

Italy has an unexpectedly high number of centenarians – people who live to the age of 100. In fact, in one Italian village, 10% of the 3,000 residents are 100 or older!

So why is this happening? How did Italy become the world’s healthiest country?

Best Life asked me if I had any idea why Italy was so healthy and I was all “yep, here’s why”:

  1. Eating well: Forget carb-free diets, Italians live by the notion of “Everything in moderation.” There is no counting calories or any concept of free days – simply eating well (but not too much) is key. Italians start with pasta, but serving sizes are small – about 100g – and the sauces tend to be homemade rather than canned atrocities loaded with cream, salt and/or sugar. Next comes meat, and a side of fresh vegetables with plenty of olive oil.  And pizza? That’s fine too, but once a week or less. Let’s not be crazy here. (But if you find yourself hungry, here are some Rome restaurant reviews to tide you over).italy truffle pasta
  1. Italians are masters of work-life balance: The first thing Italians like to ask Americans is “Is it true you only get two weeks of vacation a year?!” Italians  get 4 weeks on average, and take every single day afforded to them. Don’t expect email replies after working hours either – leisure time is taken seriously.
  1. Keep it moving: Italians might not be gym rats, but almost everyone takes a passeggiata – a daily walk before dinner. It is the break between work and play, a chance to catch up with friends and neighbors, and a good excuse for a bit of exercise. But not too much – remember: everything in moderation.rome tiber bike and walking path
  2. Indulge a little: Italian living is about enjoyment, not excess.  When it comes to drinking, Italians will pop open a bottle of wine and enjoy a glass with dinner without a batting an eye. However, binge drinking is virtually unheard of. The healthy relationship with booze keeps everyone feeling like they enjoyed themselves, without the hangover to match.
  3. Family and Friends: Everyone needs some alone time but nothing can bum you out faster than feeling isolated. Italians rely upon friends and family, and have large social networks.  Need help with something? They always know a guy. The social networks are key to healthy relationships.
  4. Health care: Yes, we can talk about lifestyle for ages because the Italians have that completely down: the right food, the right amount of wine, the right exercise and the right relationships. However, keeping healthy requires the right health care as well. Perhaps there are waits to see some doctors, but overall the national health care is amazing and free. (In other words, essentially the opposite of what the US is currently proposing with the changes to the Affordable Care Act).

Do you think there are other reasons that Italy is the healthiest country in the world? Do you feel healthier here?

The rest of the top five include: Iceland, Switzerland, Singapore and Australia.

Italy is the world's healthiest country



  • Reply Joe Daidone March 21, 2017 at 4:10 pm

    Great article – however the part about healthcare being free is completely false. Nothing is free!

    • Reply Natalie March 21, 2017 at 4:23 pm

      Hi Joe – that’s true! health care is free, but obviously the health system is funded by taxes.

      • Reply Lou March 22, 2017 at 3:15 pm

        No it’s not! Italians pay a contribution to services.

  • Reply Marco Cappetta March 21, 2017 at 8:26 pm

    If you haven’t lived in Italy for some time, please do not comment on our healthcare system.
    It’s FREE in a sense that you don’t pay-per-use, it’s paid through taxes. It would be comparable to Police of Fire Fighters in the US. You don’t pay them when you need them, it’s paid through taxes and, personally, I’d rather my tax-dollar being spent on healthcare rather than nukes. Ciao & enjoy Trumpcare.

  • Reply Joe Daidone March 21, 2017 at 11:20 pm

    I have been to Italy and I am a descendant Italy – Nothing is free! It is paid for in taxes. Who do you know in the hospital that does not get paid? No one! Where does the money come from that does pay them? Do not be one of those journalists that provides false news. The rest of this article right on point. We love Italy just as much as anyone.

  • Reply Joe Daidone March 21, 2017 at 11:23 pm

    Sorry Natalie I did not see your comment. Taxes are paid by the citizens which is my point. Health care is not free. The top earners in Italy 43% plus localized taxes. Not to mention sales tax. Let’s not kid each other, we all know nothing is free.

    • Reply Natalie March 22, 2017 at 7:03 am

      It is a point that is taken, and its fair to think of the last point as being “citizens pay enough taxes to ensure universal healthcare is free for all.”

      I’ll just add that in the top 5: Italy, Iceland and Switzerland (the top three) all have universal healthcare. Singapore and Australia use a combination of compulsory savings and subsidies. Australia funds universal in-hospital treatment.

      • Reply Lou March 22, 2017 at 3:17 pm

        No it’s not! Italians pay a contribution to services.

      • Reply Lou March 22, 2017 at 3:18 pm

        And Australians DO have free healthcare. No contributions as in Italy, you are wrong Natalie!

  • Reply Joe Daidone March 21, 2017 at 11:29 pm

    Marco – we are enjoying Trump, at the least most of us. I am sure your views are drowned in the media you read. Sure you can make fun of us, everyone does until they need us. Remember WWII Marco?

    • Reply Natalie March 22, 2017 at 7:11 am

      Hi Joe – as you mentioned I don’t want to spread false news. I agree that information can be colored by its source so I will use the latest Fox News poll: only 35% of voters approve of the administration’s handling of healthcare. The latest Gallup poll puts overall approval of the President at 37%, though there is a partisan difference on overall approval and on specific issues (e.g. Trump voters give a higher approval rating).

  • Reply Silvia March 23, 2017 at 3:00 am

    healthcare may not be completely free, but at least it’s available to everyone, something that doesn’t happen in the US. and as an Italian veterinarian living in the States, not only I’m pro universal healthcare, I also believe quality of care in Italy is way better on average 😉 I have a knee injury and here I can’t see a doctor, insurance paid for physical therapy and try to avoid anything that is expensive unless there’s no other choice….

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