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Why Is The Life Expectancy In Italy Higher Than In The US?

These details of why the life expectancy in Italy is so much higher than in the US for both men and women are important to understand and compare to the US.

Life Expectancy in Italy - Getting Around On Foot

Getting Around On Foot

Life Expectancy In Italy For Men And Women

Life Expectancy is pretty simple to understand, but in order to define the foundation of this number, let’s say it is the average time a human is expected to live, based on the year of its birth and other demographic factors.

Apart from the birth year, the other major factor in your life expectancy is your gender. Average female life expectancy is greater than that of males. There are many possible reasons for this, including: 

  • Men have generally consumed more tobacco, alcohol and drugs than women in most societies

  • Men are more likely to die from many associated diseases such as lung cancer, tuberculosis and cirrhosis of the liver.

  • Men are also more likely to die from injuries, whether intentional or unintentional

Life Expectancy in Italy - Strolling

Active, Out and About

The Average Life Expectancy In Italy

To give it a number, in 2019 the average life expectancy from birth in Italy was 83.2 years. Women have a life expectancy of 85.6 years and men have 81.2 years to enjoy. These numbers, from Data Commons are a little inconsistent because the numbers broken down by gender are only available from 2018, but for this discussion I think that is close enough. The top five leading causes of death in Italy are:

  • Coronary Heart Disease
  • Stroke
  • Lung Cancers
  • Breast Cancer
  • Alzheimer’s & Dementia

Some other notable causes of death in Italy that I want to use as a comparison are: Suicide at #20Road Traffic Accidents at #23Drug Use at #39 and Violence at #42.

Life Expectancy in Italy - Healthcare In Rome

Healthcare In Rome

Life Expectancy In Italy Compared To the USA

This Average Life Expectancy In Italy detailed above is compared to 78.8 years in the United States. Women have a life expectancy of 80.7 years and men have 76.3 years to enjoy.  The top five causes of death in the United States, while not exactly the same as in Italy, are close. Further down the list, however, that is where things get interesting to me. In the United States: Suicide is at #8, Road Traffic Accidents at #11, Drug Use at #6 and Violence at #20. This really speaks to the cultural differences that impact life expectancy.

The Average Life Expectancy In Italy By Region

According to Statista, there is a variability in Italy of the life expectancy region by region. The range of this variability is around 2+ years, with Umbria and Tuscany at the top averaging 81 years for men and 85.4 years for women.

Near the bottom of the life expectancy list are the regions at the  top and bottom of Italy, with Campania and Sicily averaging about 83.5 years for women and 78.8 years for men and Piedmont and The Aosta Valley averaging about 83.5 years for women and 78.6 years for men.

My expectation was that the averages would be lower in the south due to the differences in the quality of the healthcare available in the south, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. 

Why Do Italians Live So Long?

Most of the factors about life expectancy in Italy are positive. The lifestyle and the Mediterranean diet has consistently been cited as a strong influence in their life expectancy. Also, the national health system is among the best in Europe and the world, depending on which metrics you use to rank countries. 

Life Expectancy in Italy - Diet, Exercise and Healthcare

Diet, Exercise and Healthcare

It is unlikely that Italians will be deviating from their Mediterranean diet any time soon, despite the growth of McDonald’s and Starbucks. This is good news for Italy (and for me), considering that the Mediterranean diet is considered one of the healthiest diets in the world. Eating fresh fish, fruits and vegetables, nuts, and cooking with olive oil is typically used to explain the high life expectancy rate in Italy.

Who Has The Highest And Lowest Average Life Expectancy In The World?

According to the World Population Review, These are the top 5 countries for Life Expectancy. Italy comes in at #7 and the United States are at #50, so they didn’t make the top 5:

  1. Hong Kong

  2. Japan

  3. Macau

  4. Switzerland

  5. Singapore 

These are the bottom 5 countries for Life Expectancy:

  1. Central African Republic (53.3 years)

  2. Chad (54.5 years)

  3. Lesotho (54.4 years)

  4. Nigeria (54.8 years)

  5. Sierra Leone (54.8 years)

Life Expectancy in Italy - Testing Sites Everywhere

Convenient Testing Sites Everywhere

Has The Pandemic Influenced Life Expectancy?

There are a number of research articles on this topic and the short answer is yes, but the devil is in the details as usual. COVID has greatly impacted the mortality rates in the United States, with a disproportionate number of deaths occurring among the Black and Latino populations.

Measures of life expectancy clearly demonstrate this. It is projected that COVID will reduce US life expectancy in 2020 by 1.13 years overall, but with reductions for the Black and Latino populations that are 3 to 4x that for Whites. Some reduction in life expectancy might continue beyond 2020 because of continued pandemic mortality and long-term health, social, and economic impacts of the pandemic.

Average Life Span For Men And Women

For years, the lifestyle, medical care and diet have all been attributed to the longer life expectancy of Italians as compared to Americans. We are starting to learn and experience these differences, even though the effects of 50 years of living in the United States can’t be undone with a bowl of pasta, and we are very happy we made the move.

More Guides To Health In Italy

If you want to learn more about health and healthcare and how it impacts the life expectancy in Italy, check out these posts for addition useful information:

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