Scotland Vs Italy: Heat 4 – Health

We’re back to comparing apples to oranges (or whiskey to wine, as you prefer) and it’s time for heat 4 of the face off between Scotland and Italy, and that my friends is HEALTH. I don’t just mean the healthcare system, although it plays a part and those of you who complain incessantly about the NHS might be surprised to see who the winner is in my book (hint: Italy is at least as screwed up as the UK from this point of view), but also the general health of the population.

Scotland was once known as the sick man of Europe. Let’s see how much it deserves that reputation.

1. Healthcare

Let’s go for the big one first. The health service, known as the NHS in the UK and the ASL in Italy, with the first major difference being that while the NHS is National (Duh) the ASL is organised on a regional basis.Now one might think that this would lead to greater efficiency and to closer correlation between the needs of the local population and the services supplied. It should. It doesn’t. When you consider the massive differences in prosperity and corruption levels between the regions the term “postcode lottery”, used so often to describe the discrepancies between areas of the UK in terms of healthcare, takes on a whole new meaning. Live in one area and suffer from a chronic illness and you are covered for medication, specialist treatments and probably get disability allowance. Live in another, and you get nothing.


There’s more: if you need an operation, be prepared to wait because the lists are long. If you’re rich, that’s OK though, slip the surgeon a few hundred and you’ll jump to the front of the queue. Offer to pay privately and you can go in tomorrow. Oh, but the ASL will be paying for your op anyway, since the doctor is the same and you wont get an invoice. So he’ll be paid twice… once by the public, once by you and some poor schmuck with no money will slip back another place.

Of course not all doctors do that. But the system allows it, and enough of them take advantage of it for it to become a problem.

Scotland 1, Italy 0

2. Longevity

Easy enough –  82.2 years in Italy, 80.4 in the UK. Despite he appalling ASL (which to be fair is still better than many places in the world, just doesn’t beat the NHS IMHO), the Italians must be doing something right.

Maybe it’s all the wine.

Or the pasta.

I’ll let you know the results of my lifestyle experiment (drink lots of red wine and eat lots of pasta) in approximately 55 years.

Scotland 1, Italy 1

3. Obesity

I think we all know what this one is going to say.

We know the UK is the fattest county in Europe already, with 66% of adult males and 57% of adult females classed as overweight or obese. What you might not know is that Italy is fast catching up, with 58% of men and 41% of women. What? The stylishly dressed Italians, with their healthy Mediterranean diets? Apparently.

I have some theories as to why. First, while the UK is being taken by storm by the foodie movement, Italy is being taken by storm by the Fast food movement – places serving burgers and refried chips are cropping up on every corner, it’s unbelievable. This, and the fact that convenience foods are becoming more common here too. Second, the Italians eat lots of carbs which was fine back in the day when jobs were physical and we walked everywhere. Now, we sit on our bums in an office, then sit on out bums in a car/train/bus, then most of us sit on out bums in front of the TV at home. The Italians watch more TV per capita than any other European nation. I can’t for the life of me figure out why – the bilge they serve up most of the time is enough to have me reaching for the nearest kitchen utensil to gouge my eyes out within about 30 minutes.

This is why I don’t have a TV. Seriously

Draw: Scotland 1, Italy 1

4. Booze and fags

Ah, booze. The UK’s greatest health downfall. The scenes of mayhem which ensue on a Friday and Saturday (or any-day in student towns) night across the UK know no paragons in Italy. The Italians like to look elegant you see, and it is rather difficult to make a good impression when falling into a pool of your own vomit while trying to tie your shoelaces. Only to discover you’re actually wearing slip-ons. The Italians drink, they just know when to stop – a lesson many of us Brits could do with learning.

Cigarettes are a different question. Yes we in the UK can smoke like chimneys when we set our minds to it, but the Italians are in a class of their own. I think this is in part down to the smoking ban putting much more of a damper on your ciggie if you have to go out and light it, then smoke it, in sub-zero temperatures and driving horizontal sleet slapping your face with gale force winds (just your average spring evening in Glasgow) than it does to stand in the sunshine contemplating the well-dressed crowds and enjoying an espresso while you’re at it. Hell, I even knew I guy who started smoking when the ban was imposed because it gave him an excuse to go outside and chat up women.

Also, smokes keep you skinny, apparently. I’m not sure it’s true, but apparently many Italian women would rather get emphysema or lung cancer than risk going up a dress size.

Each to their own.

Another draw, Scotland 1, Italy 1

This heat is a draw, leaving our score at 2-3 to Italy

Next heat: The Economy. Oh dear Italy, I think you might be in trouble here…

With Love, from Italy