Homelessness in Iceland
Homelessness in Iceland has been on the rise, as the country continues to experience aftershocks of the 2008 economic crisis. Iceland has a population of 364,134 (about half the size of Seattle). Between 2009 and 2017, the city of Reykjavík experienced a 168% increase in the number of homeless citizens. Iceland’s current national homeless rate remains unknown, but the last data set released in 2011 showed that 761 people experienced homelessness in Iceland.

Why is Homelessness in Iceland Increasing?

Between high rates of job loss and a lack of affordable housing, most sources credit the 2008 financial crisis as the root cause of Iceland’s increasing rate of homelessness. With too many expensive houses and too few affordable living options, many Icelanders became unable to support themselves or their families and had to move out of their homes and into shelters. Several other factors also figure into homelessness in Iceland. These include:

  1. Gender: More women seem to be experiencing homelessness in Iceland than before. One particular shelter in Reykjavík saw an increase of 35 to 41 women in a month, and 27 of those women had never used the shelter service before. This indicates a need for more shelters, with staff attuned to the needs of women who experienced trauma from domestic abuse and sexual violence. Women also tend to stay at shelters longer than men — sometimes for months or years.
  2. Drug and alcohol addiction: Some Icelanders argue that a more long-term goal is to address the underlying problem of drug and alcohol addiction, which can often lead to homelessness. This would help break the vicious cycle of dependency and lack of reliable shelter.
  3. Age: A large number of Icelanders who homelessness affects are elderly. The 2017 report showed that only 47% of Iceland’s homeless are between ages 21 and 40. This aging demographic often requires more care and medical attention, in which case the general shelter may not be sufficient.
  4. Mental health: Although Iceland ranked third in the World Happiness Report, some argue that the mental healthcare system in the country is not sufficient. Poor mental health is yet another risk factor for homelessness.

More Homes, Fewer Homeless

In 2018, Icelanders received hopeful news when their government made homelessness a top priority. The city council of Reykjavík passed legislation calling for the building of 25 homes for the homeless population. These homes, with a minimum rent of 40,000 ISK or $363, emerged as a more financially accessible option than the typical Reykjavík home, while also being longer-term solutions in comparison to shelters. To many, this was a heartening call to action in the fight against homelessness in Iceland, as well as a moving example of a community coming together to protect their fellow citizens.

Today, reports say that while people are still utilizing shelters for short-term housing, few are sleeping on the streets in Iceland. Sleeping outside can be lethal in frigid temperatures, and access to affordable housing is key to providing safety and security for Icelanders in need.

Aradia Webb
Photo: Pixabay

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Iceland
Iceland, one of the healthiest European countries, lies between the Greenland Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean. Icelanders tend to outlive people from other richer, warmer and more educated countries. Below are 10 facts about life expectancy in Iceland that determine what factors may help Icelanders live longer lives.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Iceland

  1. On average, males and females in Iceland have a life expectancy at birth of 81 and 84 years respectively. Life expectancy increased from a combined national average of 78.8 years in 1994 to a combined national average of 82.4 years in 2016.
  2. Iceland has one of the lowest mortality rates in Europe. The average mortality rate is 6.5 per 1,000 inhabitants and the infant mortality rate is 2.7 per 1,000 live births, both below the European average of 10.2 and four. Not only do children under the age of five have better survival rates, but they also have a better chance of growing into healthier adults.
  3. Compared to the OECD average of 3.4 and three per 1,000 population, Iceland has a higher number of doctors and nurses with 3.8 doctors and 15.5 nurses per 1,000. A higher proportion of medical practitioners is a reflection of Iceland’s well-performing health care system.
  4. The health expenditure in Iceland picked up in 2012 after a dip following the 2008 financial crisis. The expenditure of $4,376 per capita is higher than the OECD average of $3,854 and accounts for 8.7 percent of its GDP. It has universal health care, 85 percent Icelanders pay through taxes. Private insurance is almost absent. This shows that health care is affordable and accessible in Iceland.
  5. The diet of the Icelandic people contains more fish and less meat. Fish is more beneficial for heart health due to the presence of omega-3 fatty acids. Healthier diet choices could be one factor that helps Icelandic people live longer.
  6. Research shows that the environment is a major determinant of health, and therefore, longevity. Iceland boasts clean air and water. Its dependence on geothermal resources for energy instead of fossil fuels ensures an unpolluted environment. Further, natural hot springs occur all across the country. The cleaner and colder environment protects people from many communicable and infectious diseases which may help them live longer and healthier lives.
  7. Iceland is the eighth-most urban country in the world. Ninety-four percent of its population lives in urban areas and cities with access to basic amenities like electricity, clean drinking water and sanitation. Life expectancy for a country increases with an increase in urbanization.
  8. Good genetics may have played a role in higher life expectancy of Icelanders. Studies showed that those above 90 years of age share more similar genes compared to control groups. One possible explanation could be the harsh environmental conditions that Icelanders faced historically, which filtered their genes so that they would pass on the ones that helped them survive.
  9. Despite the harsh weather conditions, Icelanders have higher physical activity when compared to other European nations. Almost 60 percent of the Icelandic people perform some form of exercise for at least 150 minutes per week. Icelandic people like to participate in outdoor activities such as hiking, swimming and skiing.
  10. Iceland has the lowest proportion of substance abusers among all European countries. It reduced its percentage of drug users from 42 percent in 1998 to five percent in 2016. By imposing curfews and keeping teens busy in sports and activities, Iceland was able to divert them from drugs towards healthy habits. This is an important factor when considering the life expectancy of a nation. People do not tend to die from drug-overdose and they also live healthier and economically stable lives.

Icelanders show that lifestyle can have a major effect on how long people live. Both the Icelandic people and their government made efforts to improve their health statistics by reducing the consumption of fossil fuels and drugs and increasing physical activity. These top 10 facts about life expectancy in Iceland are full of lessons that people of other nations can learn and apply as successful health interventions.

– Navjot Buttar
Photo: Flickr


Quality of Life in IcelandSituated about 400 miles west of Greenland in the northern Atlantic, Iceland is a mid-sized island with a population of around 340,000. Given its high latitude, Iceland’s climate is unexpectedly temperate. Its dramatic landscapes draw millions of tourists each year from around the world. Iceland is governed by parliamentary democracy and has a strong tradition of center-left politics.

Top Ten Facts About Quality of Life in Iceland:

Gender Equality

Iceland has consistently held the number one spot in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap index over the past several years. An article published by The Guardian in 2016 traces this back to a time where Icelandic men would leave their villages for long hunting trips, leaving the women to take charge of the key political and economic decisions in their absence.

Strong Economy

Although hit badly in the 2009 global recession, Iceland has since bounced back, and now ranks among the wealthiest countries in the world. According to data from Focus Economics, Iceland ranked fourth highest in the world for GDP per Capita in 2017.

High Life Expectancy

With a life expectancy of 83.1 years at birth, Iceland ranks seventh in the world for this metric. Iceland also has very low infant mortality rates at just 2.1 deaths out of every 1000 births.

High “Subjective Happiness” Levels

According to the World Happiness Report, ranking each country according to “subjective happiness” indicators, Iceland comes in at number four, behind Finland, Norway and Denmark. The authors of the report argue that the happiness scores—generated from survey results—closely follow six quality of life indicators. These factors are GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, generosity, freedom and absence of corruption.

Low Exposure to Sunlight

Despite its high World Happiness score, Iceland has the 40th highest suicide rate of any nation on earth with 14 suicides for every 100,000 of the population. Iceland’s Nordic neighbors Sweden, Finland and Norway all have high suicide rates despite impressive scores in other quality of life indicators. These numbers led some to draw a link between suicide and low exposure to sunlight during the winter months.

Low Poverty Risk

According to data collected in 2016, less than 9 percent of Iceland’s total population is at risk from poverty, which is about half the combined rate for the 28 countries that make up the European Union.

Political Corruption Rates

Although Iceland suffers from low political corruption compared to global averages, corruption levels in Iceland are the highest of all Nordic states, and recent reports suggest they are growing worse. During her election campaign in late 2017, Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir spoke about rebuilding trust after two years of political instability preceding her administration.

Education Quality

Although education in Iceland is funded entirely by the state, from preschool to university, one international education survey calls its quality into question. According to test results collected from 45 countries by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Icelandic children scored below the group averages in math, science and reading.


Despite having one of the world’s most generous welfare systems, Iceland is reportedly struggling with a growing homelessness problem. According to one study, the number of homeless people living in Reykjavik—Iceland’s capital—nearly doubled between 2012 and 2017 from 179 to 349, or about three out of every thousand.


Iceland has a nationalized healthcare system that is largely tax-funded. A recent study ranked the Icelandic healthcare system second in the world, based on a review of comprehensive criteria.

The combination of market forces with a generous welfare system crafted a model that secures a high quality of life in Iceland for the majority of its citizens. But a closer look into Iceland’s education, corruption and homelessness problems shows that even the most affluent and equitable societies carry their share of problems. Historically, Iceland has found success by addressing society’s problems collectively— continuing this approach will serve it well in the future.

– Jamie Wiggan
Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in IcelandIceland is a Nordic nation with a population slightly over 300,000 people. Despite its small size, Iceland stands out among other nations in a variety of ways. Geographically, the nation is known for its beautiful sights including volcanoes and hot springs. Economically, the nation boasts an impressive statistics, such as its four percent unemployment rate. Human rights in Iceland are protected fairly well, but certain aspects could be improved.

The United States Department of State’s 2015 Human Rights Report on Iceland concluded that the nation’s biggest failures in this context were to protect women and children from violence. These issues tended to stem from the criminal justice system. For instance, pretrial detainees were forced to share a cell with convicted prisoners, while juveniles were forced to share a cell with adults.

Unfortunately, the report found issues existing beyond the criminal justice system. Discrepancies in access to health care for certain individuals was noticeable. Researchers also found discrimination against people with disabilities in regard to employment and access to public locations. This report clearly demonstrates that Iceland must take measures so that human rights truly include everyone.

However, these few failures do not represent the entire situation in Iceland. In fact, the vast majority of human rights in Iceland are well protected. Freedom of speech and the press are protected by the constitution and the law in Iceland. The law is able to fine and/or imprison anyone who blocks people from this right.

Another area of success is Iceland’s protection of workers’ rights. The government effectively enforces laws that defend workers’ rights to form or join a union. Iceland also uses its laws to protect children from unhealthy work conditions. These laws are effectively enforced, and as a result, there are no known cases of child labor.

Iceland took a step forward in protecting the human rights of women this March by becoming the world’s first country to mandate that businesses demonstrate that they offer equal pay to employees regardless of their gender. This law affects all businesses, public and private, that employ over 25 people.

Human rights in Iceland are not perfectly protected. However, steps such as demanding equal pay for employees regardless of their gender shows that progress is being made.

Adam Braunstein

Photo: Flickr

Poverty Rate in Iceland
Iceland is a small country in Northern Europe home to about 332,000 people. The nation, which is a bit smaller than Cuba, is a Nordic island nation governed by a parliamentary constitutional republic. Iceland‘s size has not held the country back from becoming a world leader. In fact, the poverty rate in Iceland is one of the best in the world.

Poverty rates help us to understand people’s economic circumstances by looking at the ratio of people whose income is below poverty line and taking that as half the median household income of the total population, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The total poverty rate ratio in Iceland is 0.065. Many of the other Nordic countries, such as Norway and Finland, also post very impressive poverty rates.

Iceland’s unemployment rate, another key economic indicator, is also very low. These successes can be at least in part attributed to the nation’s robust commitment to open-market policies, which result in outstanding flows of trade and investment.

It is important to remember that Iceland’s economy was not always so strong. About 10 years ago, Iceland’s stock market lost 80 percent of its value overnight. However, in recent years, the economy has received a tremendous boost thanks to tourism.

Why has tourism become so big in Iceland? Many indicators point to the hit TV show, “Game of Thrones.” Iceland’s beautiful landscape, which includes volcanoes, is where much of “Game of Thrones” is filmed. According to Newsweek, some locals are even calling it a “tourism boom” due to the show.

Iceland’s economic success is the result of more than just an increase in tourism; government actions have also proven to be extremely beneficial. An example of this includes a government program intended to “stimulate a previously frozen housing market and reduce household debt.” It has been quite successful, as housing debt has dropped from 124 percent of the GDP to 77 percent.

Despite Iceland’s many economic successes, there are still people who are struggling. According to Iceland Review Online, over 6,000 Icelanders live in severe poverty. In order to improve the situation, Siv Friðleifsdóttir, who is the head of the Welfare Watch and former minister for the Progressive Party, wants Iceland to follow the lead of other Nordic countries by paying a base amount in child benefits.

The poverty rate in Iceland demonstrates that the country is a world leader in combating poverty. There is still work to be done, but Iceland is taking the necessary steps to improve the situation.

Adam Braunstein
Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in Iceland
Iceland is a country with a small population of about 338,000, making the nation ideal for medical research. Due to a long period of isolation, natives are genetically similar. This means that identifying common diseases in Iceland is simple.

Below are the three most common diseases in Iceland according to the most current global health statistics.

  1. The number one cause of death in Iceland is Coronary Heart Disease (CHD). CHD is “caused by damage or inflammation of the blood vessels that supply the heart.” The result is a narrowing of the blood vessels that slows or prevents blood from reaching the heart. Per 100,000 people in Iceland, about 139 people die annually from CHD. It also contributes to “1,696 annual years of healthy life lost per 100,000 people.”CHD persists in Iceland due to a poor diet that contributes to 87% of the total deaths caused by the disease. Since 1990, the average years of healthy life lost due to CHD has dropped by 42%. This is most likely due to continued research on CHD and the promotion of a healthier diet.
  2. Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is the number two cause of death in Iceland. AD is the most common form of dementia, which is the loss of memory and other important cognitive functions. AD is mainly caused by genetic predisposition, though many think of it as a normal part of aging. The disease worsens over time so that memory loss increases gradually over many years. The number of people with AD globally is increasing as more people live past the age of 65. In Iceland, AD-caused fatalities increased by 16.9% between 2005 and 2015. Iceland is more susceptible to AD because of its small population and limited genetic diversity. This population also makes it ideal for genetic study towards curing diseases like this. A genetics firm named deCODE based in Iceland has already sequenced the genomes of 2,636 inhabitants working towards this goal. Utilizing their genetic research, scientists have identified two genes, TM2D3 and ABCA7, that are risk factors for AD. Moving forward this information could be utilized to help end AD worldwide.
  3. After cerebrovascular disease, a cardiovascular disease, lung cancer is the fourth leading cause of death in Iceland. Not just one of the common diseases in Iceland, lung cancer is one of the most common cancers worldwide. A majority of lung cancer cases are caused by smoking tobacco products. In Iceland, tobacco smoke is the second-ranking risk factor that “drives the most death and disability.”Iceland joined the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control on Feb. 27, 2005, in an attempt to combat this. Since then, Iceland has established smoke-free public places, banned most tobacco advertising and required warnings on tobacco products.

The three most common diseases in Iceland are also common to most developed nations, including the United States. Placing more attention on global health will be important in preventing and curing these diseases through collaboration and collective research.

Haley Hurtt

Photo: Google

Iceland, a small island nation located in the North Atlantic northwest of the United Kingdom, went bankrupt in 2008 when global financial markets collapsed. Since then, the economy has recovered, but many factors affect its food-related economy. Here are 10 impacts on food and hunger in Iceland.

  1. Natural disasters have a tremendous impact on Iceland’s food security. As a result of the April 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano, for instance, hundreds of acres of local farmland were coated in four inches of ash.
  2. Food poverty among Icelandic children, measured by the inability to afford a meal with meat, chicken, fish or a vegetable equivalent every second day, was 6% in 2012.
  3. The depth of hunger is measured by the energy deficit in undernourished people using kilocalories. In Somalia, for example, the deficit is 490 kilocalories a day. In Iceland, the deficit is 130 kilocalories a day.
  4. High global food prices and the devaluation of Iceland’s currency following its bankruptcy weakened food security.
  5. Fears that the European Union would negatively impact food security in Iceland is among the reasons it dropped its bid to join. Among those who lobbied hardest against joining the EU were Iceland’s farmers, who used “food security” terminology to accentuate the need for more local food production.
  6. Though fishing accounts for 40% of its exports, Iceland produces just half of its people’s nutritional needs and relies on imports.
  7. After declaring sovereign bankruptcy in 2008, Iceland turned to its fishing industry to help it recover. Unfortunately, the price of fish fell 40% in some markets due to the global recession.
  8. Most of Europe has over-fished local waters, but not Iceland. It has an abundant supply. Unfortunately, fishing companies that had invested in domestic banking are now heavily in debt. What’s worse, recession in important markets weakened demand.
  9. The success of Iceland’s economy is heavily dependent upon other economies. That, coupled with its relative isolation, means that food shortages could result from disruptions in importing or exporting.
  10. Icelandic households are unprepared for food shortages. A 2011 survey indicated that most have a supply that would last for just a week. The situation is not much better for food suppliers. Their stores would be depleted in less than a month.

As these impacts on food and hunger in Iceland indicate, food poverty is not only a problem in the developing world, and it continues to have a disproportionate impact on children. In addition, even countries with plenty of food to export can be dependent on food imports and what it takes to produce food. What may be more, when talking about impacts on food and hunger in Iceland, is the effect of natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions.

Laurie Gold

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Iceland
Iceland, known for its breathtaking glaciers and stunning views of the Northern Lights, has an impressive quality of life. Additionally, citizens have long life expectancies due to extensive health care services. Most higher education is free, and the government’s welfare program aims to aid the unemployed, the disabled and young families. Despite these factors, over 6,000 out of 330,000 Icelanders live in extreme poverty. Many of the causes of poverty in Iceland stem from the 2008 recession.

When the economy crashed, almost all of the Icelandic businesses went under. The crash occurred when the banks collapsed, resulting from the banks owing immense debts to foreign countries and businesses.

After the recession in 2008, child poverty increased dramatically. Between 2008 and 2012, the number of children living in poverty nearly tripled. By the end of 2012, 31.6 percent of children in Iceland were living in poverty. According to UNICEF, this increase was the highest among rich countries.

In order to combat the rise in child poverty, Iceland replaced their flat taxation methods with a progressive form of taxation. The government also implemented policies that encouraged citizens to invest in businesses within the nation, improving economic growth.

While these efforts helped fight the causes of poverty in Iceland, tourism has jumpstarted the economy of Iceland and helped bring up employment rates. Last year, almost 2 million tourists came to visit Iceland and explore its beautiful attractions. This is partially a result of airlines offering cheap tickets from the United States to Iceland. Iceland has met this influx of tourists by increasing the number of attractions, restaurants and lodging opportunities to ensure a memorable trip.

The turn of events in Iceland can serve as a model for other countries. Tourism can help any country, but is particularly helpful for developing nations. The influx of money from tourists can benefit the extremely poor by creating jobs and providing them with the resources to pull themselves out of poverty.

While Iceland is still fighting to recover from the rapid increase in poverty from its economic crash, the implementation of policies and the dramatic rise in tourism has lifted Iceland out of the decline. By using tangible ways to fight the causes of poverty in Iceland, the number of people in deep poverty should drop within the next decade.

Julia McCartney

Photo: Flickr

Education in Iceland is incredibly important. In a 2016 study, Iceland was ranked the third most literate nation in the world, trailing behind Finland and Norway. The small island country is home to a population of around 332,000 people.

Iceland is well known for being progressive. Its equality endeavors are evident in the structure of its education system. According to the nation’s website, “A fundamental principle of the Icelandic educational system is that everyone should have equal opportunities to acquire an education, irrespective of sex, economic status, residential location, religion, possible handicap and cultural or social background.”

Education in Iceland is a four-level system.

  1. Preschool is the first level of education, which children attend between one and six years of age. There are fees for preschool, but they are largely subsidized.
  2. Compulsory education follows preschool education. Compulsory education is free and mandatory for children between the ages of six and 16. Unlike in the United States, homeschooling is not an option.
  3. Upper secondary education is the third level. It is available to anyone who has completed compulsory education, and is mostly compromised of students 16 to 20 years of age. The upper secondary level is essentially the equivalent of high school in the United States and is free with the exception of one private school.
  4. The fourth tier is education at a university, otherwise known as higher education. To apply for university, a student must first have completed upper secondary education. For the most part, universities in Iceland are required to accept all students with an upper secondary degree. Public universities in Iceland are tuition-free; the only costs associated with higher education are registration fees.

With a literacy rate of 99 percent and an unemployment rate at around 2.7 percent, perhaps the rest of the world can learn from the system of education in Iceland.

Shannon Elder

Photo: Flickr

Top Diseases In Iceland
Like all countries, Iceland is affected by a number of diseases that harm the nation’s citizens, putting their lives at risk. For the most part, the circulatory system is the most in danger for the Nordic island nation, as data published by Statistics Iceland suggests. In fact, close to half of the number of Icelanders who passed away in 2009 died of ischemic heart diseases and cerebrovascular disease.

Of course, there are a number of other top diseases in Iceland about which the country is most concerned, other than ones that affect the circulatory system. In 2009 again, for example, 175 people died of diseases that affected the respiratory system, such as cystic fibrosis, pneumonia, and emphysema.

Additionally, cancer affects a large percentage of the population, though one could argue that cancer poses a problem for many developed countries. According to Global Health Grove, cancer, cardiovascular diseases and neurological disorders are included in the top diseases in Iceland, causing the most harm overall for the country’s population.

Perhaps most surprising is the large effect of infectious diseases on Icelanders. This is surprising because the country enjoys a well-developed and prosperous economy, with a healthcare system provided by the state. All Icelanders who register for the healthcare system and contribute to it through their taxes are able to enjoy emergency services, screenings and exams, as well as many other services.

Yet, diarrhea, lower respiratory diseases and nutritional disorders still affect the population, killing nearly 200 Icelanders every year. One can look at the risk factors for these diseases and find a correlation. For instance, Iceland is in the top 10 list of countries that have the unhealthiest diets. This can explain the common nutritional disorders and circulatory diseases that killed more than 700 Icelanders in 2009.

Additionally, dietary risks, high blood pressure, and smoking tobacco are the main culprits in killing Icelanders every year.

Iceland has a relatively small population compared to other developed countries, which is why the number of deaths caused by the top diseases in Iceland may seem minuscule. In fact, as of 2017, Iceland only has around 333,000 people living on the island.

Until risk factors are assessed and accounted for, the diseases listed above will continue to pose a threat to the small population. Luckily, health services in Iceland are working hard to warn the dangers of an unhealthy diet and cigarette smoking, which will hopefully have a positive effect and limit the number of deaths caused by these factors in years to come.

Jacqueline Nicole Artz

Photo: Flickr