“Chi viene a Ispica compierà 100 anni – If you come to Ispica, you’ll live to be 100”, goes a popular saying in Southeast Sicily and life expectancy on the island is certainly increasing:
According to statistics published at the beginning of May by the Atlante sanitaria della Sicilia Sicilian women may now expect to live until they are 83.4 years old and men until 78.7 years of age. This represents increases of 1.3% and 1.6% respectively as compared with the figures for 2004 and compares quite favourably with the statistics for other regions: a baby boy born in Piedmont now has a life expectancy of 79.2 years and a baby girl, 84.4 years. In Lazio the figures are 79.1 years for males and 84.5 years for females whilst in Campania they are 77.7 years for males and 83 years for females.
The number of deaths due to circulatory disease is decreasing although this type of illness remains the main cause of death in Sicily for both sexes and the figure, at 43%, is higher than the national average. The second most common cause of death is cancer, presenting as breast cancer in women and as tracheal or lung cancer in men. Cancer of the colon or rectal tumours are also common in both sexes. Respiratory illness is the third most common cause of death in men on the island whilst metabolic disorders – most commonly, diabetes mellitus – and diseases of the immune system are the third cause of female mortality.
Let us look at the positive implications of the statistics, however: in Italy, a country where 20.3 percent of the population is aged over 65, the increase in life expectancy nationally is attributed to the availability of better medical treatment for illnesses which were previously nearly always fatal. Sicily’s Regional Councillor for Health, Massimo Russo, also cites better services for the elderly, an improvement in the quality of life and an active programme of disease prevention on the island as reasons for the increase. Naturally, we at Times of Sicily believe that year-round sunshine, the inhabitants’ healthy, Mediterranean diet and their happy disposition are also important factors!
On a national level, there is some concern that smoking and inactivity still lead to early death. But take a look at a Sicilian square on market day: sitting in the sun, gossiping and watching the world go by at the age of 78 seems a good option to us!