Why Israeli men live longer (clues: beer and women)

By Nathan Jeffay, May 22, 2014
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(Photo: Flash 90)

(Photo: Flash 90)

They spend three years in the army and enjoy nothing more than a deep-fried falafel. But Israeli men rank fourth in the world when it comes to life expectancy.

According to new World Health Organisation projections, a baby boy born in 2012 in a low-income country will live until 60 on average, while in a high-income country the average is 76. In Israel, however, he can expect to reach 80.

The only country that reaches 81 is Iceland — the other two beat Israel’s 81.2 by only a fraction. The figures appear, in part, to reflect the trend towards lower mortality for heart and stroke patients in Israel. Cancer survival rates in Israel are up, and diabetes is well managed.

Experts say that better access to medicines and medical care partly accounts for Israel’s results. Tanya Cardash, deputy medical director for the Maccabi health fund in Jerusalem, said: “The ability of a GP to navigate the system in Israel is much better than in the UK.”

Dr Itzhak Zaidise said that an important factor is that Israeli men are more likely to meet over coffee than beer, and drink in moderation. “We don’t drink as much as in other countries and we have a low rate of heart attacks,” said Dr Zaidise, associate director of Sheba Medical Centre.

Good provision for cardiac patients helps to explain why heart disease-prone men rank higher than Israeli women in the female league (they came joint tenth), said Dr Zaidise.

Israeli men also have a secret weapon, added Dr Zaidise. “We have good women, they take care of us — the Jewish mother and the Jewish wife.”

Last updated: 5:45pm, May 22 2014