Health

Why Iceland is one of the world's healthiest countries

Iceland is one of the healthiest countries in the world, with an extremely long life expectancy and low rates of infant mortality and pollution. So what are Icelanders doing right? Here are five lifestyle cues we can take from the ladies of Iceland.

Masterfile

Iceland is one of the healthiest countries in the world, with an extremely long life expectancy and low rates of infant mortality and pollution. So what are Icelanders doing right? Here are five lifestyle cues we can take from them:

1. A healthy diet
When it comes to eating, Icelanders keep things simple: Lots of fresh, pure dishes made up largely of lean lamb, seafood (including uber healthy and omega 3-rich haddock, cod and herring) and artisanal dairy from grass-fed free range cows (including high doses of local yogurt, called skyr). They also tend to use high-quality olive oils when cooking or preparing salad dressing. Also, because of the short growing season, much local produce is grown in greenhouses with minimal pesticide use.

2. Water therapy
Icelanders swear by the health benefits of natural hot springs, and some even credit the volcanically heated waters with longevity. While such claims may or may not be true, hot springs — and alternating stewing with sitting in steam rooms and cooling down — provide Icelanders with a family-centric site of relaxation to catch up on quality time and minimize toxic stress.

3. Exercise
In order to beat those intense winter blues — months with almost no sunlight — Icelanders regularly hit the gym. They’ve taken the cue that working out on a regular basis can both keep you physically fit and improve mood. Ice climbing, rock climbing, mountain climbing and kayaking are all popular leisure activities. (If you can call that “leisure.”)

4. Strong social bonds
In this tiny country of just over 300,000, cooperation is a necessity. A recent story in the Atlantic posited that survival during the cold, dark winters on a ice-covered rock has created a unique interdependence and extremely strong social bonds. Social connectedness and strong relationships are key to both health and happiness.

5. Gender equality
Iceland elected the world’s first female head of state — a single mother, no less — over three decades ago. In Iceland, women and men have some of the most equitable relations in the world. Both maternity and paternity leave are the norm, and services like state-sponsored all-day preschool make it much easier for women to juggle family and career. Gender equity has been strongly linked to female health and longevity — particularly reproductive health and choice. Plus, a more balanced household and society reduces the demands on women, and enables them to turn a little focus back on themselves, and their health.

What do you think about the way Icelanders live?