Health in Italy
Italy is known for its generally very good health, considering the fact that it has the world's 4th highest life expectancy, low infant mortality, relatively healthy cuisine and diet, and healthcare system that is ranked 2nd according to WHO (World Health Organization) and which has the third best medical performance worldwide. As with any developed country, Italy has adequate and sufficient water and food distribution, and levels of nutrition and sanitation are high.
Water and Food
Italy has a good and sufficient water supply, yet, especially due to droughts, common in the summer (notably in Southern Italy), water shortages can frequently occur. Italians consume a very high amount of mineral water, the highest compared to equivalent neighbours: in 1992, the average person in Italy drank 116 litres, compared to 105 in Belgium, 93 in Germany and 80 in France. According to studies, 18 million people in Italy annually are confronted with at least one slight water shortage, and 18% of Italian families have been recorded as having irregular distribution patterns. Some water distribution is also uneven, and can be explained by economic factors; for example, people in Lombardy, Italy's richest region, drink nine times more bottled water than Campania, one of the country's poorest.
A problem which often presents itself regarding drinking water is water pollution and the presence of harmful purifying chemicals and/or herbicides, which can cause several health problems. According to a decree issued by the state, the maximum presence of herbicides or similar materials in Italy drinking water is 0.5 μg per litre.
Italy's nutritious and generally healthy cuisine ensures that Italians are well-nourished and eat good food. The relatively recent addition of several drugs to meats has meant that controls have increased from 4,000 in 1988 to 56,831 in 1991.
Being a relatively warm and sunny country, Italians are often exposed to direct radiation from the sun (ultraviolet radiation), which, if not protected from sun cream or block, can create carcinogenic skin diseases, such as skin cancer. Despite this, the greatest risk from exposure to radon is found indoors.
Life expectancy and mortality
Italy has one of the highest life expectancies in the world. However, Italy's high average varies greatly by regions. In the more affluent north, the life expectancy at birth in 1990 for a man would be lower than in the south (73.3 compared to 74.2) yet for a woman, the average is higher in the north than in the south (80.6 compared to 79.8). Central Italy has the highest average, with 74.7 for men and 81.0 for women. In 2003, the average national life expectancy at birth for a woman was 78~84, and for a man 71~77. By 2009, this average had rapidly increased to 77.26 for men, and 83.33 for women.
Italy also has a very low rate of infant mortality, that of 5.51 out of 1000 people, the 185th lowest in the world. From 1970 to 1989, the death rate went down dramatically, from 11 and 10.3 for men and women, to 8.3 and 6.7.
Smoking in Italy has decreased greatly in the past decades for men, yet women have had a less definitive pattern. From a country where in 1966 a 68.5% average of the male population smoked, this has gone down to a ~37% average in 1991. Yet, for women, it increased from ~15% for women in 1966, to ~16.5%, notably in the centre, where it has gone up from 15% to 20.1%.