Health in Lebanon

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A) Example of smoking culture in 1800s Lebanon among both the rich and poor. With the former seemingly about to singe the other's turban

The Lebanese are traditionally considered a very healthy people due to traditional diet and behavior. With life expectancy at birth in Lebanon in 2013 being 80 for men and 82 for women, Lebanon is listed as having some of the highest life expectancy in the Middle East, putting it slightly higher on the WHO listing than even United States. This, however, has begun to shift towards Western trends as culture also shifts towards the West and its lifestyle. [1]


Smoking is very prevalent and culturally ingrained into Lebanese society, with a Gallup poll in May 2007 revealing that 41% of Lebanese people had smoked on the day before the survey. The World Health Organization 2009 survey of Lebanese between the ages of 25 and 64 found 47% of men smoked as did 32% of women. Packs of cigarettes cost $1.60 or less, depending on the brand, with the cheapest available for only 50c. Underage smoking is also highly prevalent, with little to no reinforcement of bans outside of schools.

Smoking is also a very prevalent socializing mechanism in Lebanese culture, common especially among the elderly and the youth alike. This further adds to the issue, especially with regards to the Hookah, which is smoked even by those who would not regularly do so. Hookah smoking is often erroneously considered less harmful, and as such, is a common sight among the street-side cafes of Beirut, even within households and dinner parties. It is not uncommon to order a prepared hookah, from a selection of molossol tobaccos, in most of the restaurants of the country as menu items.[2]

Smoking was banned in public indoor places by Law n 174 apart from the hospitality sector in September 2011. It was extended to the hospitality sector in 2012. In September 2015 it was announced that the restriction was to be relaxed after its futility was discovered.[3]


The Lebanese are generally slim people, with increasingly alarming weight gain in the inner city areas. The current trend towards obesity is influenced due to the shift from traditional Mediterranean diets and lifestyles to fast food and an industrialized lifestyle, which is heavily focused in urban areas. Individuals who had a low level of education, non-working class, were non-smokers, and had a family history of obesity were more likely to have an unhealthy body weight. Although females at the Lebanese American University were more likely to snack between meals than their counterparts, they were subjected to the cultural notion that females need to be thin. Males did not have this societal pressure. Overall, however, the Lebanese in villages along the coastlines as well as the mountain settlements fare better with regards to body weight.[4]

In a localized study of less than 100 university students, 23.4% of boys and 19.7% of girls were overweight in the American University of Beirut during 1996. Among university students at Lebanese American University in 2008, more male students were overweight or obese than female students. 37% of males were overweight and 13.6% were obese, while 13.6% of females were overweight and 3.2% were obese. These statistics, however, do not reflect Lebanese society as a whole.[4]


In 2015 there were 452,669 registered Palestinian refugees in the country More than half live in 12 Palestine refugee camps. They are ineligible for state social services, including health care. Further adding to the issue is the amount of Syrian refugees, totalling almost 1 for every four Lebanese. These people are often forced to live in squalid conditions due to a lack of government resources. More often than not, these people are also subject to discrimination in certain aspects of life. This includes medical treatment, to which they have no legal right to according to Lebanese law.[5]

Mental Health[edit]

Lebanon, a society of people generally wrought by war and loss, is currently plagued with mental health issues where a staggering 17% of citizens suffer from some form of non-war related mental illness. Having only three dedicated psychiatric facilities, but frequent access of psychiatrists and therapy, means that Lebanese have somewhat lacking access to psychiatric treatment by Western standards, but still better access than the rest of the Middle East and the Levant excluding Israel. Cultural stigma, however, often prevents sufferers from receiving the proper care they require and more often than not ends badly.[6][7]

A horrendously troubling statistic by the World Health Organization indicates that 49% of Lebanese are afflicted with some form of war related trauma. This often includes former combatants, as well as many victims of the combat, suffering from PTSD. Furthermore, many victims of rape are subject to fear of stigma and do not report their victimization, thus preventing them proper medical and psychiatric treatment, and more importantly, justice.[8][9]

Women's Health[edit]

Women have adequate access to gynecological and other female health facilities in Lebanon, excluding contraceptives. The Lebanese view on unborn children is that they are equivalent to an infant, thus making it difficult for legalization of abortion. However, abortion is rampant among women and frequently performed by the same doctors who call for its prohibition. Underage pregnancies as well as extramarital pregnancies are the most commonly terminated, often in decent conditions but occasionally not. The general consensus of the Lebanese indicates that most do not support abortion, however a significant urban population is currently vying for its legalization. Most Lebanese prefer the concept of birth then adoption by a sterile family, and this is a frequent occurrence. However, more often than not abortions are forced upon young mothers by family members attempting to preserve family honor in the pseudo-honor based society which emphasizes both male and female purity, hypocritically as it also embraces Western liberties.[10]


  1. ^ "Lebanon". World Health Organisation. Retrieved 22 December 2015. 
  2. ^ "Lebanon smoking ban draws dismay and delight". BBC News. 4 September 2012. Retrieved 22 December 2015. 
  3. ^ "Lebanon's Law 174 goes up in smoke". The National. 9 February 2015. Retrieved 22 December 2015. 
  4. ^ a b Yahia, Najat; et al. (2008). Eating Habits and Obesity among Lebanese University Students. 
  5. ^ "Health in Lebanon". UNWRA. Retrieved 22 December 2015. 
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