BEIRUT, Lebanon — Life expectancy in Lebanon has proven to be one of the best in the region. While common stereotypes about this Mediterranean country promote images of war and discord, the reality is quite different. Living conditions have improved drastically over the years, enhancing aspects of countless social issues and quality of life. But what has exactly changed? The following 10 facts about life expectancy in Lebanon answer this question by detailing key elements about the quality of health in the country.
Top 10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Lebanon
- Life Expectancy – As of 2018, the life expectancy for the total population of Lebanon was 76.3 years. Woman live longer than men, with a life expectancy of 77.7 years compared to 75.1 for Lebanese males. This places Lebanon on par with fellow European countries, ranking it at number 57 in the world for life expectancy.
- Cost of Care – The Lebanese government allocates 7.5 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) to healthcare, boasting a government-funded healthcare system called the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), similar to the one of France. Members pay a monthly fee and are covered for most of the inpatient care and pharmaceutical fees. Other private insurance options exist, but citizens who cannot afford them are forced to make out-of-pocket payments for medical treatments.
- Healthcare Access – Healthcare quality is considered “good value for money” when compared to other countries. As of 2014, there were 2.38 doctors and 2.9 beds for every 1,000 people. Both public and private facilities are available in the country and they are generally well equipped, specifically in urban areas. Private facilities are usually the most up-to-date with the latest technology. However, in areas neglected by government funding the quality of public hospitals can be extremely poor.
- Healthy Diet – The Lebanese population is known for its Mediterranean diet that strongly focuses on fish, fruit and nuts. The Mediterranean diet is considered to be one of the healthiest in the world, helping increase the longevity of health and life in general. However, those who are not able to afford high-quality products often opt for low-quality processed foods. For this reason, low-income consumers are often at high risk for health problems, like obesity.
- Obesity – A study in 2016 showed that 53 percent of the Lebanese population surveyed was considered to be obese, which is a relatively high number. Obesity is commonly linked to poor diet and lack of physical activity. However, it is speculated that a spike in obesity in Lebanon can also be linked to a shift of food consumption toward a more “westernized” diet of refined carbohydrates, high sugar and animal proteins.
- Leading Causes of Death – Heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death in Lebanon. Coronary heart disease is the number one (37 percent) out of 50 main causes of death in the country. Strokes make up around nine percent.
- Refugee Health – Lebanon has the largest per capita population of refugees in the world due to ongoing geopolitical instability. It is estimated that a population of 1.5 million refugees, mostly from Palestine and Syria, reside in the country today. Refugee populations often have limited job and educational opportunities, leading to poor living conditions, poverty and ultimately poor health.
- Smoking – Tobacco use is widespread in Lebanon and smoking water-pipes is a common cultural practice, especially among the Lebanese youth. An estimated 1.1 million people over the age of 18 smoke. In addition, Lebanon has the highest cigarette consumption per capita and is ranked third in the world. This is especially alarming as 3,500 people die per year from tobacco-related diseases such as lung cancer. However, smoking rates drastically dropped to 25 percent in 2016 from 34.7 percent in 2008.
- Food Security – Compared to other countries in the Arab world, Lebanon has the highest per capita proportion of cultivable land. Despite this, food security is still an issue, as an estimated 49 percent of Lebanese stress not having sufficient access to food. This is in part due to the neighboring Syrian conflict spilling over into Lebanon, straining already overstretched public services and infrastructure.
- Mental Health – Approximately 17 percent of Lebanese citizens suffer from mental health problems, yet treatment for such issues is only available to 10 percent of the population. According to a World Mental Health Survey conducted by the WHO, “49 percent of the population sampled had experienced a war-related distressing event of some type.” Though Lebanon is internationally renowned for its mental health expertise, the country still does not have a national policy on mental health, expending just five percent to the health sector for mental health.
Life expectancy in Lebanon has progressed over the years, yet many areas are still in need of improvement. Thankfully, organizations like the WHO and UNICEF have made it a priority to provide medical care, food access and quality water and sanitation for Lebanon’s most vulnerable citizens and regions. By continuing to prioritize the health of its citizens, Lebanon can ensure longer lives and stability for its future.
– Natalie Abdou