State of health in Italy - Statistics & Facts

Life expectancy at birth in Italy reached 83.24 years in 2017. The Mediterranean peninsula is one of the healthiest countries in the world and enjoys the second highest life expectancy in Europe after Spain. Inequalities, however, persist. On average men live four years less than women. Significant disparities also appeared depending on socioeconomic status and across regions. The least educated Italian men live on average 4.5 years less than those who achieved a higher education. A similar gap can be observed for women. Moreover, Italians in the most affluent regions in the north live on average up to three years more than those living in the least affluent regions in the south.

When considering risk factors and risk behaviors, smoking rates in Italy have decreased, but one in five adults still smoked daily in 2017. Also, the number of individuals suffering from obesity increased steadily in recent years, and the obesity rate among adults reached 11 percent. Being overweight and obesity have become an issue even among children, which can cause serious health problems later in life. Excessive drinking is another factor that affects an individuals’ health condition. If approximately 20 percent of Italians admitted to regularly consuming alcohol, on a more positive note, the share of those who binge drink (defined as consuming six or more alcoholic drinks on a single occasion for adults, and five or more alcoholic drinks for adolescents) was much lower. Estimates suggest that approximately one-third of all deaths in Italy in 2017 were attributable to these behavioral risk factors.

Despite claiming to have an overall good health status, as many as 25 million Italians suffer from at least one chronic disease. Moreover, a considerable number of individuals is even affected by two or more chronic conditions. Among the most common, hypertension, arthritis, and allergies appear to be the most widespread health conditions, according to the latest data released.

Mostly due to an aging population, the number of deaths in Italy has increased overall in recent years, reaching 650 thousand in 2017. Diseases of the circulatory system and cancer were by far the most common causes of death, claiming more than 410 thousand lives combined. A more in-depth analysis shows that ischemic heart diseases caused the most deaths, followed by cerebrovascular diseases, and neoplasms of the respiratory tract. Despite claiming fewer lives compared to other conditions, it is worth noting how deaths caused by mental and behavioral disorders (among them dementia, alcohol abuse, and drug dependence), and by diseases of the nervous system (such as Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s disease) appear to have increased significantly.

In 2020, the country was hit by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Between the end of February and March authorities started confirming the first cases. Since then the number of infections has increased steadily. Despite the counter measures implemented by the government in an effort to control the spread of the virus, which included among others a very strict lockdown, Italy has become one of the most affected countries in Europe and in the world. The north of the country, in particular the region of Lombardy, recorded the highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths.

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State of health in Italy

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