One good reason to live in Italy is… February 7, 2008Posted by dorigo in food, news, science.
food ? Well, maybe, but I had another answer in mind: life expectancy. The new data by ISTAT (the italian institute of statistics) confirms some preconceptions I had: italians live longer, and better, than other europeans.
2007 data on life expectancy in Italy gives 84.1 years for women and 78.6 years for men. I have no access to similarly updated numbers for other european countries, but life expectancy has been following a similar growing trend everywhere, so we can have a look at less updated numbers (dated June 2005) from Eurostat:
In the table, the first column refers to men and the second to women. The third and the fourth are life expectancies at 65 years of age, for men and women respectively. As for the countries: BE is for Belgium; CZ for Czech Republic; DK for Denmark; DE for Germany; EE for Estonia; EL for Greece; ES for Spain; FR for France; IE for Ireland; IT for Italy; CY for Cyprus; LV for Latvia; LT for Lithuania; LU for Luxembourg; HU for Hungary; MT for Malta; NL for the Netherlands; AT for Austria; PL for Poland; PT for Portugal; SI for Slovenia; SK for Slovak Republic; FI for Finland; SE for Sweden; UK for United Kingdom; BG for Bulgaria; RO for Croatia; TR for Romania; IS for Iceland; NO for Norway; and CH for Switzerland.
One clearly sees that Italy does quite well. But even more striking is a table showing the number of years of good health one is expected in european countries. The indicator, called “healthy life years expectancy”, HLYE (also known as “disability-free life expectancy”, DFLE), is a composite attempting to express how much one is expected on average to live without disability. See the table below:
On the DFLE scale, Italy scores way better than other countries! The influence of our better eating habits ? Or is the cause to be sought elsewhere ? Let us look at the incidence of cancer. In the table below are reported the age-standardized rates of incidence of cancer per 100,000 population. The columns indicate rates for men and women in 1995, and men and women in 2002.
Italy does not score well on the table above: cancer has a larger incidence on average in Italy than in Euroland. So let us look at obesity for another hint. The following tables (for men and women, respectively) list the percentage of population with 25<BMI<30 (overweight) and BMI>30 (obese). BMI, the body-mass index, is a number determined by dividing weight in kilograms by the square of height in meters. The tables clearly show that italians are on average more fit. The first table is for men, the second for women.
In Italy, obese men and women (BMI>30) are a smaller fraction than in other countries, particularly at a young age – 3.8% of men and 2.3% of women are both record lows in Euroland. A casual correlation between life expectancy and obesity ? Of course not. Let us compare the numbers shown above with those in the US, where obesity is a plague and a major cause of mortality. From the site of the NCHS (National Center for Health Statistics) I found this document, which contains the information. One learns that men have a life expectancy of 74.7 years, and women of 80.0 years.
The fraction of men with a BMI>30 in the US is quoted as 29.5% here, and 33.2% for women. And it seems that obesity has little to do with genes, and a lot to do with lifestyle: in fact, the percentage of obese men and women has shown a dramatic increase in the recent years, as the graph above shows.
So, let’s all stop eating junk food! Particularly you. Yes, you. You know I am talking about you. Put that bag of chips down!