Iceland: Home of the Per Capita Record

Iceland: Home of the Per Capita Record

Photos by
Bobby Breiðholt

Published July 8, 2008

Living in an environment as hostile and unpredictable as Iceland can have severe effects on one’s mental stability. When a society goes through environmental hardship, long periods of darkness and centuries of seclusion it’s bound to lead to some kind of eccentricity.

This is most obviously exemplified by the curious mix of grandiosity and meekness (an oxymoron if there was one) of native Icelanders who find it nothing short of scandalous that their small, unarmed country doesn’t have as much political pull as some of their larger, more powerful neighbours. At the same time they are proud of having almost won a football match against the World Champions… a decade ago.

But as Homo sapiens always do, Icelanders found a way to cope. Instead of giving up and facing the fact that a small, isolated country may not be comparable to huge, multi-cultural ones, these proud islanders invented something brilliant in its simplicity and devastating in its effectiveness: something which serves to both prove this country’s superiority and kindle fears of its imminent degeneration – The Per Capita Record.

The Per Capita Record is quite simply when Iceland does something noticeable, compared to how small it is; for example, we don’t have nearly as many cars as the UK, but compared to the population we have a lot more. Used most often to excuse the mediocre standing of our sports teams, you’ll often hear Icelanders state that our sports teams are actually very good… compared to how few we are. But since receiving the rather embarrassing news that Icelandic woman are no longer considered the most beautiful in the world and in fact don’t even come close, Iceland has been in need of a good dose of patriotism. So, without further ado, here is the list of Iceland’s proudest accomplishments.

Morality Capital of the World.
Although widely thought of as being a rather alcoholically inclined nation it turns out that Iceland was in 27th place out of 30 surveyed countries for per capita alcohol consumption. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Quentin Tarantino! Another misconception is that all Icelanders get divorced, but according to the statistics only 30 of every 100 marriages ends in divorce, which is pretty respectable compared to Belgium’s 60 out of every 100 marriages. Iceland also has the third lowest infant mortality rate in the entire world, the highest amount of water availability and the lowest perceivable amount of government corruption. In Iceland, the government doesn’t lie about its shady dealings; it just refuses to comment on them. In your face, Democracy!

Great Artists, Crappy Terrorists.
Icelanders read the most books per capita and have more artists as part of the workforce than anywhere else. Perhaps this explains the fact that in a survey released about a year ago only 3% of the country described themselves as unhappy or maybe it’s because Iceland has the highest rate of suicide caused by depressive episodes. Is everyone who isn’t happy already dead? The war on terror has proven itself worthwhile in Iceland where no one has ever died in a terrorist attack. Taken back to school bin Laden!

The Perfect Woman.
We have the 5th highest rate of female parliamentarians with 34.9% of the parliament being women and had the honour of having the first female president. Unfortunately for the fairer sex, Iceland also has the highest incidence of breast cancer in women, or 39.4 afflicted for every 100.000. On a side note, in this reporter’s opinion, Icelandic women are not only still the most beautiful, they are also the best fighters in the world. I dare you to piss off an Icelandic woman between midnight and 5 AM on a Saturday night. I double dare you.

Global Warming? Sounds good.
The clean and unpolluted island paradise has the most tractors per 100 hectares of arable land and in fact has more than three times more than the next country, Japan. At the same time, however, Iceland has the second least amount of arable land of all countries that practice agriculture, which leaves us with practically no land and a hell of a lot of tractors. It’s not just tractors though; Iceland has the second highest amount of cars per capita too, right after the USA, and is in 8th place for oil usage, with each person using more than half a barrel a day. Whatcha gonna do about it Saving Iceland?

Socialist Paradise.
Iceland is also the third most taxed country in the world. But of course, how else could we afford to pay nurses, teachers and police officers such fantastic wages? Oh, wait, we don’t! In fact, Icelandic teachers’ wages are only slightly higher than in Mexico and substantially lower than in Italy, despite both countries paying a lot less in taxes.

International Politics and College Hierarchy.
The goal of this article is not to mock or degrade Iceland. By all standards, per capita or otherwise, this quaint little island is a respectable place to live but it’s not the same island it was two decades ago. Like a hot firstyear girl flirting with seniors at the dance, we’re at the pivotal point where we can either go home with the captain of the football team who’ll use us and dump us (and be “that” girl for the rest of our college years). Or we can remember the nerdy kid who’s always been there for us and be the cool chick in the coming of age comedy/drama, which is the world of international politics. Let’s not be Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls, let’s be Ellen Page in Juno.

Info Box:
*A survey preformed approximately a year ago showed Iceland as the happiest country in the world. A newer survey, however, has placed Denmark in first place, and Iceland as about as happy as Columbia and Puerto Rico. What traumatic event could have lowered Iceland’s spirits so dramatically? Two words. Merzedes Club.
*Despite our reputation, Iceland is not one of the top alcohol consumers in the world.
*Iceland has the most tractors per 100 hectares of arable land and the second most cars per capita in the world.
*Iceland has the highest rate of suicide as a consequence of depression.
*Nobody in Iceland has ever been killed in a terrorist attack.



Mag
Feature
Squeezing Blood From A Turnip: Iceland’s Universal Healthcare At Risk

Squeezing Blood From A Turnip: Iceland’s Universal Healthcare At Risk

by

In a small and private ceremony in a chapel in Fossvogur, around 30 friends and family members are present to pay their respects to 50-year-old Rósa Mikaelsdóttir, a single mother of three who passed away on November 17. Rósa had struggled with mental disorders for most of her life—in particular severe anxiety and depression—and, following the 2008 banking crisis, had a hard time making ends meet on her disability allowance. After the ceremony, I speak with her family. They tell me that Rósa barely managed to keep a roof over her head in recent years, and that she often couldn’t

Mag
Feature
May Day Mayday: Iceland’s Ongoing Doctor Strike

May Day Mayday: Iceland’s Ongoing Doctor Strike

by

Following a round of unsuccessful negotiations, doctors in Iceland commenced their first ever strike in late October. In the wake of the banking crisis, so as to share the burden, doctors not only accepted a 5% wage cut, but also ceased seeking pay raises with as much fervour as before. As a result, their wages now lag far behind other public sector professions and the consumer price index. Compensation in the Icelandic healthcare sector is no longer competitive with those in our neighbouring countries, both in terms of salaries and holiday allowances. Now that the economy is purportedly in better

Mag
Feature
Iceland’s University Hospital: The Director Speaks

Iceland’s University Hospital: The Director Speaks

by

Throughout the whole healthcare debacle, one man has consistently remained focused on the big picture:the National University Hospital of Iceland (LSH) director Dr. Páll Matthíasson, PhD. Educated as a psychiatrist, Páll worked in London, England, from 1997-2007 before returning to Iceland, where he served as a senior physician before becoming the Chief Psychiatry Executive at LSH in 2009—and director at the end of 2013. Despite the tremendous pressure he faces with the ongoing strike, Páll still finds time to sit down with me in his office to discuss LSH and the future of medicine in Iceland. “Off the cliff” Up

Mag
Feature
Down To The Bone: The Healthcare System, Post-Austerity

Down To The Bone: The Healthcare System, Post-Austerity

by

Following the economic collapse of 2008, the Icelandic State’s debts skyrocketed, reaching 126% of the country’s GDP in 2011. At the same time, State revenue sources ground to a halt, and property devalued. The consumer price index shows price levels on consumer goods increased by a whopping 18.6% from 2008 to 2009, and strict capital controls were put in place to stop funds from funnelling out of the country. In a desperate attempt to avoid national bankruptcy, the State underwent hefty austerity measures, and called in the IMF. Although these facts are readily available, a myth persists to this day

Mag
Feature
Prescribing Trouble: Iceland’s Social Insurance Explained

Prescribing Trouble: Iceland’s Social Insurance Explained

by

Prescription drugs used to be either completely, partially or not at all covered by the insurance system, sometimes arbitrarily. On May 4, 2013, a new system was implemented, which was meant to be simpler and more just than the old one. The new arrangement entails three payment steps, where patients must progress from paying the full price of medication, to 15% and then 7.5%. Once the total costs reach a certain cap, patients can request a medical exemption licence that sees their medication fully subsidized. The system resets every year, making patients go through the three steps again. Medical professionals

Mag
Feature
Iceland’s Healthcare System: How Does It Work?

Iceland’s Healthcare System: How Does It Work?

by

Iceland maintains a universal healthcare system, under which all legal residents are covered by the Icelandic social insurance system. All hospital admissions are paid for by this system, as is the majority of the cost of outpatient appointments. There is a token fee to see General Practitioners (GPs) and specialists, with fees for the latter considerably higher, particularly after the economic collapse of 2008. Iceland’s primary healthcare is split up into hospitals, health institutions and healthcare clinics. There are two hospitals, Landspítalinn, the National University Hospital of Iceland (hereafter referred to as LSH), which is located in Reykjavík and serves

Show Me More!