Multiple Middle Eastern countries and the Mediterranean Sea surround the State of Israel. The nation declared its independence in 1948 after the British cabinet ended its rule of Palestine and the United Nations failed to partition the area into Arab and Jewish States due to dissent from Arab groups. The day after the establishment of the State, this disagreement escalated into a civil war known as the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. Since Israel’s inception, conflict and bloodshed have plagued its history, including the Six-Day War in 1967 and Operation Badr in 1973. Yet today, Israel is the only democracy and technologically advanced economy in the Middle East. Reports show that Israel ranks high in various health indicators, especially life expectancy, yet there are still concerns for the nation’s well being. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Israel will provide insight into the country’s current state.
10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Israel
- Israel ranks 13th in worldwide life expectancy and research projects it to be seventh by 2040. The life expectancy at birth for Israeli citizens is 82.3 years, which is higher than the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany and other highly developed nations. Many expect the lifespan of Israelis to increase as the country tackles issues such as air pollution.
- Israel’s infant mortality rate is lower than the average in the developed world. Up to one year after birth, Israel sees 3.4 deaths per 1,000 births and five maternal deaths per 100,000 births. These low rates can be attributed to Israeli’s highly regarded doctors, most of which train in the U.S. and then return.
- Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid. Since World War II, the United States has provided Israel $142.3 billion in foreign assistance, most of which is military assistance. In 2016, the two countries agreed on a 10-year plan that provides Israel $38 billion in military aid. This includes $500 million in missile defense, including $70 million for the Iron Dome, which directly helps protect Israeli citizens from regional threats that endanger their lives
- Israel guarantees health care to all citizens as a fundamental right. A national health insurance law passed in 1995 provided universal coverage. In 2015, benefits such as psychotherapy and medication improved the provision of mental health care. Thus, no citizen suffers from an inability to access health care, which greatly improves life expectancy. For instance, the chance of dying from heart disease, stroke, cancer or diabetes at ages 30-70 is among the lowest in the world.
- Israel’s mandatory military service increases male life expectancy. In 2016, a study published by the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel discovered that mandatory military service for men over the age of 18 leads to improved physical fitness and adds more than three years to life expectancy.
- Diet contributes to Israel’s long life expectancy. Israelis generally adhere to the Mediterranean diet, which is high in fruits, vegetables, olive oil and fish.
- Despite high life expectancy, Israel faces a shortage of doctors and nurses. A report published by Israel’s Ministry of Health found that the nation’s numbers of doctors, nurses and hospital beds are declining. For every 1,000 people, there are only 3.1 doctors, placing Israel below the average of other OECD countries. As a result, doctors are immigrating from North America to lessen Israel’s shortage
- Poverty could also threaten life expectancy. An estimated 22 percent of the Israeli population lives below the poverty line. High housing and commodity prices exacerbate this issue, an increasing concern for many Israeli citizens. Although only .03 percent of the country is homeless, only a small number qualify for social services due to stiff criteria. As a solution, the OECD recommends increasing competition and efficiency in the economy, as well as investing in infrastructure and promoting skills, especially among socioeconomically disadvantaged groups. Therefore, Israeli leaders are calling for reforms to increase competition in the banking sector and boost the supply of housing.
- Gender equality can help reduce Israel’s poverty. One report from the OECD found that more female participation in the workforce can reduce economic inequality. Mark Pearson, the author of the report, said, “More women in work really does seem to have an effect on inequality.”
- Terrorism remains a constant, looming threat to Israeli lives. Since 1948, the total reported number of casualties from terrorist attacks include 3,705 killed and 14,736 injured. To help solve this constant threat, the country deployed the Iron Dome, an air defense system, in 2011, and Defense Minister David Ben-Gurion began a conscript army, the Israel Defense Forces, in 1948.
These 10 facts shed light on how factors such as Israel’s health care system and lifestyle contribute to its high life expectancy, while also highlighting areas for improvement. The life expectancy of Israel’s neighboring countries provides extra context for these facts, such as Egypt at 70.5 years. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Israel reveal why, despite recent challenges, the nation is an ideal model for other unstable Middle Eastern countries to strive toward and ensure longer, healthier lives for their citizens.
– Adam Bentz