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

Refugees in Iceland
As Iceland stands geographically remote with wisps of chilly Arctic air and an intimate population of 323,000, refugees in Iceland who have been granted asylum have experienced a unique assimilation. In a Telegraph article, a Syrian refugee commented, “For us, [Iceland] is the freezer” while Audur Magnuscdottir, a biochemist helping a family settle said, “[Iceland] is dark, it’s cold and it’s windy – it must be hell. Just to get used to going out in the cold is a huge step.”

Yet in light of Iceland’s unusual characteristics, the majority of Icelanders have welcomed refugees with open arms. Here are 10 facts about refugees in Iceland:

  1. Since Iceland’s refugee policy first initiated in 1956, the country has accepted a grand total of 584 refugees, a rate lower than other Nordic countries. According to data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, there has been a total of 17,785 refugees accepted in Denmark, 142,207 in Sweden and 47,043 in Norway.
  2. Since 1956, groups and families of refugees have arrived from a diverse range of countries — Vietnam, Poland, Hungary, former Yugoslavia and Serbia.
  3. Post-recession, Iceland’s economy has recovered at a four percent growth rate per year. However, according to a PBS report, Iceland would require 2,000 new immigrants a year to maintain that level of growth — refugees would contribute to this number. Mayor of Akureyri, Iceland, Eirikur Bjorgvinsson, explains that refugees contribute more to Iceland’s economy than the amount of assistance that they are actually receiving.
  4. In order to become assimilated in Iceland society, the government offers financial assistance, education, health services, housing, furniture and a telephone for up to one year to refugees in Iceland.
  5. According to the Ministry of Welfare, the policy in Iceland has welcomed a quota of 25 to 30 refugees every year. However, this quota has changed in the last few years with the crisis in Syria, protests from Icelandic citizens and an exception in 1999 with the outbreak of the war in Kosovo.
  6. The largest group of refugees accepted together in Iceland was comprised of 75 people, who were all from Kosovo in 1999. The smallest group to migrate to Iceland in a single year was comprised of five people in 2014, who hailed from Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Uganda and Syria.
  7. In September 2015, via Facebook, 11,000 Icelanders called on the government to increase its intake of refugees. At that time, the Icelandic government had only pledged to accept 50 refugees.
  8. Amid the conflict in Syria, with 4 million Syrians fleeing the country and a further 7.6 million being displaced inside Syria, 48 Syrian refugees from the United Nation’s refugee camp in Lebanon have found new homes in Iceland since January 19 of this year. An additional 40 refugees will be arriving in Iceland this fall.
  9. A refugee committee suggested that the municipalities of Reykjavik, Árborg and Hveragerði, Iceland receive Syrian refugees due to its strength in employment opportunities, housing and abundance of Red Cross chapters.
  10. Although many refugees in Iceland have found peaceful relocation to Iceland with citizens embracing the new diversity created with the influx among their predominantly white and Christian population, many who have entered Iceland with false and forged passports have been jailed due to a violation of international law. The typical sentence is 30 days in jail, legal fees from 50,000 to 125,000 ISK.

Priscilla Son

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Iceland
According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Better Life IndexIceland‘s quality of life is very high. The country also has the highest employment rate of any OECD country. Simultaneously, however, poverty in Iceland affects 6,000 residents.
According to the Iceland Review, as of early 2015, around 9 percent of the population in the small country of Iceland fell into the low-income category. Recently, that number is steadily dropping thanks to a booming tourism industry. In 2011, upwards of 13 percent of the population fell below the poverty line.


Tourism Fights Poverty in Iceland


The 2008 financial crisis took a major toll on Iceland’s economy, leading to homelessness and unemployment. As a result, a Welfare Watch was created the following year in order to help alleviate these conditions.

In addition, the recent popularity of Iceland as a tourist destination has helped bounce the economy back towards its former financial success. The growing tourism industry has also created many new jobs for Icelandic residents. Unemployment rates have fallen and 45 percent of the jobs created within the past five years are related to the tourism industry.

There is no rest for the tourists — rental cars and lodgings are rapidly booked, even during the coldest months of the year, and Airbnb locations are second only to increasingly booked hotels. However, a host told Grapevine that he does not believe that even Airbnbs (in combination with traditional lodging vacancies) can meet the high demand.

The Icelandic bank, Islandsbanki’s projected future tourism rates estimate that in 2016 alone visitors will equal, or surpass, the number of people who live full-time in the island nation. Iceland’s growing fame has been attributed to volcanoes, inexpensive flights and layovers through Icelandair, as well as pop culture references like Game of Thrones.

Although many Icelanders are rejoicing at the tourism industry’s success, others are still wary of the future. The waterfalls and volcanoes of Iceland are major tourist honeypots, but increased crowding to these areas may be dangerous to both the environment and its visitors.

In the future, tourists may be discouraged to visit Iceland if the Icelandic Krona appreciates, causing prices to rise, or if the economy takes another hit.

There is also the fear that Iceland may lose part of its charm and culture as foreigners flock in. This is a trade-off for alleviating poverty in Iceland. Iceland is in need of money and, in the words of Bradley Turner of Grapevine, “The market doesn’t care much for memory, nostalgia, sentimentality, history.”

Poverty in Iceland continues to decline as a result of increasing visitors, but financial security comes at a price. Ironically, the Icelandic landscape and culture may be negatively affected by the country’s newfound popularity.

Carrie Robinson

Photo: Flickr

During the financial crisis seven years ago, while many countries were struggling to stay afloat, Iceland was already at the bottom of the sea. A tiny country with a population of only 320,000, Iceland experienced near-total bank failure in the span of three days and a 95% decrease in stock. While monetary policies in the United States and Europe let large amounts of cash flow into the economy, Iceland let enormous amounts of dollars flow through. When the Icelandic krona crashed in 2008, the country’s three biggest banks had amassed wealth more than 10 times the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). As a result of this “loose money” policy, 85% of the economy tanked. The lack of cash flow regulation in the economy led to its downfall and hindered the rebuilding process.

Iceland’s attempts at becoming an international banking powerhouse also factored into its demise. With very high interest rates, international investors could borrow dollars at 5%, exchange them for krona, and buy Icelandic stock at 9% interest. They would profit off the difference in interest rates. Without any governmental controls on the flow of money, all cash could have exited the country, further depressing the economy. However, with help from the International Monetary Fund, the Icelandic government began to impose strict capital controls, barring krona from leaving the country or residents from buying foreign currency or international stock. In the years immediately following the crash, the government raised taxes and provided debt relief to mortgage holders, but not to social services.

It also did something most developed countries have failed to do: jail bankers.

International hedge funds purchased claims for pennies at the height of the crash. Once financial recovery started, their assets grew, giving them a large share of power over the financial system. Due to continued cash control policy, this control affected the lives of Iceland’s residents as well. Residents were especially limited in the amount of foreign cash they could spend, which became a problem when traveling abroad or investing in international stock. “You have a feeling that there’s a system watching you and telling you what you can do with your money,” noted Gudmundur Kristjansson, a fisherman.

However, cash flow restriction and the devaluation that resulted posed some benefits for the economy as well. Exports became cheaper and imports more expensive, allowing residents to produce more goods rather than depend on foreign manufacturers. Devaluation caused wages to fall, so unemployment did not reach the soaring heights it did in Europe. Tourism increased as more people began to travel to Iceland for its cheap prices and its currency independence from less developed European countries.

However, the bars that once held Iceland in restricted success must soon be lifted. “We are enjoying the longest sustainable growth period in recent history,” commented Minister of Finance Bjarni Benediktsson, but cited lacking international investment and competing foreign companies as reasons for lifting the restrictions that helped foster the country’s success for so many years. “[Such controls] are not a sustainable situation for an economy,” said Prime Minister David Gunnlaugsson.

Today, unemployment in Iceland is at 4%, GDP is expected to grow by 4.1% in 2015, and tourism is a flourishing industry. Despite the uncertain future of the country’s economy, it is certainly faring better than other European countries that suffered under the crash. For Greece, whose citizens voted against a deal with creditors and potentially face a future of exiting the Eurozone and financial security, tight monetary restrictions would not be a likely solution. It has a population of 11 million to Iceland’s 320,000, and a GDP 16 times that of the tiny island. When Iceland was preventing its people from spending money, Greece was throwing it around in all directions. Yet Iceland serves as an example of how unorthodox financial practices—controlling the cash flow, granting influence to international hedge funds—can unfreeze a nation and help it rebuild. Restoring a country to financial security is a process of understanding its government, citizens and industries. For Greece and other struggling countries, it will be a struggle, but not a failure.

Jenny Wheeler

Sources: IMF, New York Times
Photo: The Automatic Earth