In the second part of the nineteenth-century and throughout the twentieth-century, Icelanders’ average lifespan increased greatly. In the mid nineteenth-century, the average lifespan of Icelandic men was only 32 years, and for women about 38 years. In the middle of the twentieth-century, these statistics had become 71 and 75 years, and in 2015 the average male lifespan was 81 and for women 83,6 years. Great strides in areas of health care together with improved living conditions, a more secure employment situation, and better diet have combined to create this considerable change.
Emphasis is laid on ensuring access by all the general public to the public health service without consideration of the wealth or circumstances of the individual and family. Social security is thought of as a safety net which guarantees access for all.
The health system is expensive and the costs associated with it have been increasing in recent decades. An increase in the average age of the population is responsible for this as well as steady improvements, and more expensive equipment, in diagnosis and treatment.
As in many other countries, there has been a lot of debate in Iceland about the cost of the health care system. The ideas and processes adopted by the authorities do not always coincide with the views of those who work in the field or those who seek medical care. There is a lot of discussion about cost cutting, and the authorities’ attempts at rationalization have been criticized. However, health care in Iceland is amongst the world’s best.