The World’s Healthiest Countries, Ranked

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Spain just surpassed Italy as the world’s healthiest nation. That’s according to this year’s edition of the Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index, which ranks 169 countries based on factors that contribute to overall health.

Six of the top 10 countries were in Europe, with Italy ranking second. In contrast, the United States didn’t even break into the top 30, ranking at number 35, one notch worse than last year.

The top 10 healthiest nations, according to the report, were:

  1. Spain
  2. Italy
  3. Iceland
  4. Japan
  5. Switzerland
  6. Sweden
  7. Australia
  8. Singapore
  9. Norway
  10. Israel

To come up with the rankings, Bloomberg researchers graded nations based on several factors including life expectancy, while giving penalties for health risks such as obesity and tobacco use. Environmental factors like access to clean water and sanitation were also taken into account.

The results mirror other research that came out last fall looking at future life expectancies in 195 countries and territories around the world. In that study, published in the international medical journal The Lancet, Spain also ranked first, with a projected life expectancy of 85.8 years by 2040. The United States ranked 64th.

Experts say the eating habits of the Mediterranean diet may provide clues for why Spain and Italy enjoy such good health. This heart-healthy diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains, along with healthy fats like olive oil, nuts and avocados.

A number of studies have shown the Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease and may have numerous other health benefits, including reduction of LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol, as well as a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s diseaseParkinson’s disease and cancer. One study published in British Journal of Nutrition found that following a Mediterranean diet was associated with a 25 percent lower chance of death from any cause.

People in Spain also benefit from a national health system focused on preventative care, according to a review by The European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, which praised its “principles of universality, free access, equity and financial fairness.”

One of the main reasons the U.S. ranks so poorly compared to other developed nations is the obesity epidemic, which shows little sign of letting up. The latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate nearly 40 percent of American adults — equivalent to 93.3 million people — are obese.

Life expectancy in the U.S. has also been driven down in recent years due to so-called deaths of despair, including suicide and drug overdoses. For the first time, Americans were even more likely to die from opioid overdoses than car accidents.

Sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 27 of the 30 unhealthiest nations in the Bloomberg rankings. Haiti, Afghanistan and Yemen were also in the bottom 30.

Love throughout History and across Lifetimes

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Love throughout History and across Lifetimes
Photo by Louri Goussev | https://flic.kr/p/72KkXM

It can be very hard, especially for a Westerner, to imagine spiritual wisdom and carnal pleasure peacefully coexisting (blame it on our Puritan roots). This Valentine’s Day, learn about the rich, beautiful, and sensual poetry of ancient India—and be prepared to rethink the separation of faith and love.

House Hunting in … Italy

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Andrea Wyner for The New York Times

By Alison Gregor

This three-bedroom home is just outside San Vito dei Normanni, a rural town in the southeastern Italian region of Apulia, about 15 miles west of the coastal city of Brindisi and the shores of the Adriatic Sea.

Completed in 2017, the 2,691-square-foot home includes a contemporary one-story villa with two bedrooms and a cluster of traditional structures with conical roofs known as trullimade from Apulian dry stone.

Set on nearly four acres, the property has landscaped gardens, fruit trees, an olive grove and a swimming pool.

The five attached trulli have been refurbished and include a single bedroom, dressing room, living room with open kitchen, and bathroom. The trulli complex is linked by a glass hallway to the contemporary portion of the stone-and-concrete home, also painted white, which has barrel-vaulted ceilings made from a volcanic stone called tuff. The living area has an open kitchen with a four-burner induction cooker and professional oven, among other appliances. The two bedrooms in the contemporary structure each have an en suite bath.

All of the main rooms in the home open to a patio area with a barbecue, anchored by a 50-by-16-foot rectangular pool. The contemporary wing is topped by a roughly 1,000-square-foot roof deck.

The property functions as a single-family home, but could also be rented to tourists, as many renovated trulli complexes in the Apulia region are.

A large kitchen in the home’s contemporary wing has a dining table and barrel-vaulted ceilings made from a volcanic stone called tuff.CreditAndrea Wyner for The New York Times

 

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A large kitchen in the home’s contemporary wing has a dining table and barrel-vaulted ceilings made from a volcanic stone called tuff.CreditAndrea Wyner for The New York Times

“This project was born from a completely renovated period village of trulli, to create a luxury residential and tourist facility equipped with every comfort,” said Francesco Cavallo, a founding partner of PROF.IM. Real Estate Agency, which has the listing.

Specific to Apulia and dating back several centuries, trulli are built from stone, without mortar. They were originally used as temporary field shelters or dwellings for agricultural laborers that could be disassembled easily. This home’s trulliwhich date to the early 19th century, were rebuilt with an eye to retaining their historic authenticity, Mr. Cavallo said. One of the structures had partly collapsed and had to be rebuilt by local artisans, known as trullistos,who specialize in the regional architectural style, he said.

The furniture, which is included in the asking price, was handmade by a local cabinetmaker in keeping with the home’s design.

The pool terrace has an outdoor shower, a large barbecue and a wood-fired pizza oven. Several dozen lemon, orange and other fruit trees have been added to the property’s centuries-old olive grove. There is also a large English-style garden, an irrigation system, parking for four cars, a security system and an automatic vehicle gate at the entrance.

The town of San Vito dei Normanni, with a population of about 20,000, dates to the Middle Ages and is notable for its religious architecture. San Michele Salentino, a small community with shops, is about a mile from the property, Mr. Cavallo said, and Ostuni, known by tourists as the White City because of its whitewashed old town, is 10 miles north. The beaches of Alto Salento and the Torre Guaceto Nature Reserve are about 20 minutes away. Brindisi’s international airport is about 25 minutes by car, while Bari, a city of more than 300,000 with an international airport and a cruise port terminal, is just over an hour up the coast.

In the past decade, Apulia, a scenic region encompassing Italy’s “boot heel” and bordering the Adriatic and Ionian seas, has become a destination for those seeking second or vacation homes, said Huw Beaugié, the founder of the Thinking Traveler, a company specializing in Mediterranean villa rentals.

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The conical structures, or trulli, have a dining area adjacent to a small kitchen.CreditAndrea Wyner for The New York Times

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A lounge area is set beneath a small window and arched stone ceilings.CreditAndrea Wyner for The New York Times

“It’s part of a general increase in desirability of a simpler, more sustainable lifestyle,” he said. “Apulia appeals to a desire to return to basics.”

A 2018 report by Gate-away.com, an Italian property portal for overseas buyers, ranked Apulia second among Italian regions (after Tuscany) for the volume of inquiries from potential investors, said Simone Rossi, the company’s managing director.

The area’s traditional properties, which typically sit on the Adriatic coast or in inland fields shaded by olive groves, are “very much in demand among investors who renovate them and bring them to their ancient splendor,” Mr. Rossi said. “In many cases, they turn them into B&Bs.”

Properties that attract vacation-home buyers have increased in price over the past decade, although it is difficult to say exactly how much, Mr. Beaugié said. “It’s still possible to pick up pieces of land with a few tumbledown stones for a few tens of thousand euros,” he said, while a large feudal farmstead, or masseria, “will cost a few million to buy and restore to a good standard.”

Apulia has become a destination for celebrities in recent years, with lavish weddings and parties, said Marta Calligaro, a property researcher with the brokerage Homes and Villas Abroad. “The global recession just over a decade ago saw prices fall,” Ms. Calligaro said. “But the past two to three years have seen renewed growth, with the market for second homes being its driving force.”

A bedroom in the contemporary structure overlooks the patio area and a 50-by-16-foot swimming pool.CreditAndrea Wyner for The New York Times

 

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A bedroom in the contemporary structure overlooks the patio area and a 50-by-16-foot swimming pool.CreditAndrea Wyner for The New York Times

The average price of a home in Apulia is about 1,300 euros a square meter ($136 a square foot), with the city of Bari being the most expensive area and Taranto the most affordable, although prices can vary widely, Mr. Rossi said.

A country house or seaside villa might cost about 150,000 to 300,000 euros ($170,000 to $340,000), and a masseria could run from 400,000 euros ($450,000) into the millions of euros, Ms. Calligaro said.

Many buyers plan to rent out their properties when they are not in residence, Mr. Cavallo said. Rental prices range from about 1,500 to 2,000 euros a week ($1,700 to $2,260) to 4,000 or 5,000 euros a week ($4,500 or $5,700), he said.

A decade ago, Northern Italians were the first to seek deals on vacation homes in Apulia, back when a trullo in need of work could be had for as little as 20,000 euros ($22,600), Mr. Beaugié said. But now more buyers are foreign, from Britain, the United States and Australia, as well as Germany, France and other European countries, brokers said.

The ongoing Brexit turmoil and the most recent American presidential election may be responsible for driving the “huge growth in the interest of both Brits and Americans,” Mr. Rossi said.

There are no restrictions on American or Canadian buyers in Italy, although citizens of some countries face obstacles, making it easier to buy through a company, Ms. Calligaro said.

Buyers may hire a real estate agency to assist them, typically for a fee of 3 percent of the sale price, Mr. Rossi said.

The closing of home sales is handled by a notary, for a fee of 2,000 to 3,000 euros ($2,260 to $3,400) paid by the buyer, Ms. Calligaro said.

The home is in the Apulian countryside, near the town of San Vito dei Normanni, which has about 20,000 residents.CreditAndrea Wyner for The New York Times

 

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The home is in the Apulian countryside, near the town of San Vito dei Normanni, which has about 20,000 residents.CreditAndrea Wyner for The New York Times

A personal lawyer can provide legal advice throughout the process, for a fee of about 1 to 2 percent of the sale price, she said.

In all, buyers should budget 10 to 20 percent of the sale price for closing costs, Mr. Rossi said, including a 9 percent tax on the assessed value of the home if it is being used as a part-time or vacation home. Those buying a home as a primary residence pay only 2 percent, he said.

Italian; euro (1 euro = $1.13)

The annual property tax on this home is about 1,450 euros ($1,640).

Francesco Cavallo, PROF.IM. Real Estate Agency, 011-39-08-3199-1613; immobiliareprofim.com

For weekly email updates on residential real estate news, sign up here. Follow us on Twitter: @nytrealestate.

Correction: 

An earlier version of this article misstated Apulia’s classification in Italy. It is a region, not a province.

8 Bizarre Sleep Habits From Around The World

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Would you sleep on the job?

Are your sleep habits ruining your daily life? It might be worth taking a nap on the job!

To celebrate World Sleep Day on March 15, Brother UK has taken an in-depth look at the most bizarre sleep habits from countries around the world to see if they could have an impact on productivity.

Research via the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) suggests that lack of sleep can have a negative impact on emotion. Could naps of 20-30 minutes make for a more productive workforce, and have a positive impact on mood, concentration and attention?

Struggling to sleep? READ: How to sleep better – simple ways to get a good night’s rest

Sleep habits

1. China – Bring your bedroom to work

In factories and offices across China, the lines between bedroom and workspace are becoming increasingly blurred. Due to longer working hours, many employers now advocate a short nap after lunchtime to increase concentration. Certain offices have even installed temporary or permanent sleeping and washing facilities in their office spaces to encourage employees to stay round the clock.

2. Japan – Inemuri

Taking a nap at work could well be perceived as a sign of laziness, but not in Japan. The hectic lifestyle of Japan’s city dwellers has led to the wide-scale uptake of “inemuri”, or “sleeping whilst present”. Thanks to inemuri, Japanese workers can nap on public transport, at their desk or even during meetings – and it’s commonly seen as a sign of hard work.

Sleep habits

3. Spain – Siesta

Originating in Spain and parts of Latin America, the siesta is perhaps one of the most well-known daytime snoozing traditions across the globe. This practice might be under threat, however, with new business laws introduced in 2016 limiting how late employees can work, and effectively reducing the time they have to squeeze in an afternoon nap.

4. Italy – Riposo

Where the Spanish have a siesta, the Italians have “riposo”. Commonly taking place after lunch, riposo can last anywhere from 2-4 hours. Get us to Italy now! Frustratingly for tourists, this means that many attractions are closed throughout the day.

5. Norway – Napping outside

Take a stroll through Oslo, Helsinki or another Nordic town, and you might well see some infants taking a nap in temperatures as low as -5 degrees Celsius. Don’t worry – they haven’t been abandoned; sleeping outdoors in the daytime is actually believed to be very good for their health.

Sleep habits

6. Indonesia – Fear sleep

Stresses of work getting you down? The ominously named ‘fear sleep’ might be the solution. Locally referred to as “todoet poeles” – the practice of fear sleep enables people to nod off instantly to avoid feelings of excessive anxiety and stress. Nodding off when your boss walks in might not be the best solution, but regular naps could well help avoid work-related worry.

7. Botswana – Sleeping on your own schedule

You should sleep when it’s dark, correct? Not quite. At least, not in Botswana. The country’s native Kung hunter-gatherer tribe are well known for sleeping only when tired, regardless of the time of day. With an increased uptake of flexi-time, rise in self-chosen hours and growth of contract-based work, could businesses be embracing the way of the Kung sooner than we think?

Sleep habits

8. USA – Silicon Valley sleepers

Though it’s not a national custom just yet, sleeping on the job is widely being embraced by some of the USA’s biggest employers. Technology and software companies are leading the napping revolution, with firms like Google going so far as to have purpose-built sleeping pods installed in their offices to help employees rest and refresh.

Where Are People Traveling in 2019?

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According to new data being released by one top global travel agency, 96% of Americans say they want to travel in 2019.

The overwhelming majority–76%–are planning at least two or more leisure trips this year. But the real surprise is that 36% say they will take solo trips. And where are our favorite domestic destinations?

The Travel Leaders Group listed Hawaii as number one followed by Alaska and California.

And for solo travelers, Florida was number one.

But overseas, there’s a surprise because it’s not Paris.

Number one is the Caribbean, which is due in no small part to the growth of cruising.

And for solo travelers, Eastern Europe has now made the list.

Free Three-Month Trip to Italy from Airbnb

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Hi, hello, ciao, there’s someone I’d like to introduce you to. It’s future-you—more specifically, it’s five-months-in-the-future you.

Five-months-in-the-future you lives in a charming countryside village in Southern Italy called Grottole. (It’s in the part right between the sole and the heel of the boot.) You start every day with a cappuccino and a lesson in Italian language, before moving over to the vegetable garden to get acquainted with local produce. Next up is a cooking lesson, and a homemade lunch (fingers crossed that it’s pasta). Save some room for a sundown aperitivo, though.

One quick clarification: This could be be five-months-in-the-future you—if you apply for, and win!—one of four spots in the Airbnb Italian Sabbatical program. According to the company:

“Airbnb is sponsoring a unique opportunity for four people to move to the small village of Grottole for three months and experience authentic rural life in Italy. Selected candidates will become temporary citizens of the village and will volunteer for a local non-profit organization called “Wonder Grottole” whose aim is to revitalize the town’s historical center. The small village of Grottole, with only 300 inhabitants and more than 600 empty homes, is at risk of disappearing and is asking for your help!”

I mean, you really don’t have to twist our arms on this one. Hang on, what’s that, it’s all-expenses paid? And a €900 monthly expense stipend? Okay, we’re double in. Make that triple.

Join The Conversation

TOP COMMENT:
“I would love this opportunity to learn and live in Southern Italy with others that share love of food, travel, and culture. Pretty please!!”
— Gail B.

COMMENT

And now that we’ve reeled you in with that video, we’d like to present the following stream of daydream-inducing photos of Grottole, in an effort to distract you all until you miss the application deadline (Feb. 17). Meanwhile, we’ll be racing to get our essay submissions in! (And pondering how to answer the application question, “Why would you like to take a sabbatical in Grottole?” Forced choice response options do not include photos of our tiny, drafty New York apartments.)

Allora:

To learn more about the program or (ugh! If you must) apply, check out Airbnb’s Italian Sabbatical page.

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Do you ever daydream about taking a sabbatical to Italy? Let us know in the comments!

5 Scandinavian Life Philosophies That Can Make You Happier

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By Ashley Hamer

By most metrics, Scandinavia is one of the happiest places on Earth. The annual World Happiness Report routinely rates the Nordic countries of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland among the top 10 happiest nations, which experts credit to their strong social support, both among neighbors and through government programs. In that way, perhaps learning a few Scandinavian traditions can give us all a lesson on how to be there for our fellow humans. Here are five life philosophies from Nordic countries that might make you a little happier in your own life.

Hygge

The Danish concept of hygge translates to something like “coziness of the soul.” It’s the feeling you get when you’re snuggled up under a blanket with a loved one drinking cocoa by the fire. As a life philosophy, it’s all about allowing yourself guilt-free indulgences, especially when the world is dark and dreary.

“Hygge could be families and friends getting together for a meal, with the lighting dimmed, or it could be time spent on your own reading a good book,” Susanne Nilsson, a lecturer at Morley College in the UK, told the BBC in 2015. “It works best when there’s not too large an empty space around the person or people.”

Lagom

Lagom is a Swedish word that roughly translates to “just right,” or “optimal.” You’ve likely heard the quote “everything in moderation, including moderation”? That’s what lagom is all about. Whether that’s how much sugar to add to a batch of cookies or how much of your life you devote to your work, this philosophy urges a healthy balance that doesn’t swing too far in any direction.

According to Lola Akinmade-Åkerström, author of “Lagom: The Swedish Secret to Living Well,” lagom “pushes us to find our own individual levels of contentment, inner peace, and most natural operating state. What makes it a very Swedish (or Nordic) [philosophy] is just how often lagom pulls us from individual focus to group focus.”

Sisu

If the other philosophies on this list are about taking time to enjoy life, sisu is kind of the opposite: It’s about persisting through challenges until you reach the end. “Sisu is a unique Finnish concept,” Finlandia University writes on its website. “It is a Finnish term that can be roughly translated into English as strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity.”

It’s not about courage in the moment, but the kind of courage that has to last over time — after inspiration has sputtered out and the real challenge has shown itself. No wonder it’s also the name of a towering Arctic mountain — a mountain first ascended by a Finnish mountaineer.

Fika

Fika is just another word for coffee break — it was named by reversing the syllables in “kaffe,” the Swedish word for coffee. But it’s much more than a coffee break. It’s about retreating from the stresses of the day by bonding with the people around you, something you’d ideally do several times a day. In reality, however, the Swedish tradition of fika seems to be dwindling as younger people work longer hours and take less time for breaks. That doesn’t make this lesson any less valuable, however. Breaks are good! We could all use more of them.

Lykke

The word “lykke” is simple enough: It’s simply the Danish word for “happiness.” But in those World Happiness Report rankings we mentioned, Denmark routinely ranks at the very top, so there’s a lesson to be learned in the Danish version of happiness. In his book “The Little Book of Lykke,” Meik Wiking divides this approach to happiness into six categories: togetherness, money, health, freedom, trust, and kindness.

To add more togetherness to your life, for example, try making family dinner a bigger to-do by lighting a few candles and playing relaxing music. To get a bigger happiness bang for your buck, pay for something now that you can enjoy several months from now — that way, the sting of the payment will be long gone from your memory when it’s time to enjoy the experience.

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