Icelandic sagas for a long life

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The Independent Online
THE SECRET to a long life lies somewhere in Iceland, according to a new book of facts and figures on Europe.

Icelanders expect to live the longest of all the 46 countries included in the Economist Pocket Europe in Figures despite also having the highest level of nitrogen oxide emissions per head.

Air pollution notwithstanding, Icelanders can expect to live to be 79.3 compared with age 77.1 in the United Kingdom. Perhaps the fact that Iceland also has the best currency rate against the dollar means they feel able to sit back and look forward to old age in comfort.

The UK, while landing an unlucky 13th in the life expectancy race, can look to its laurels for comfort. It has won the highest number of Nobel prizes in the sciences and economics since the awards began in 1950, gaining 47 prizes with Germany running a slow second at only 26. The guide, published by Profile Books in London and compiled by the Economist's research department, is a veritable goldmine of enlightenment, particularly where preconceptions about a nation's habits abound.

It may not come as a great surprise to learn that we love our music, buying on average the most LPs, cassettes and CDs each in Europe last year. But it is the Belgians who are the continent's top CD consumers with 98 per of their albums bought in CD format. Hungary has the best ear for classical music while the UK falls to joint eighth alongside the home of opera, Italy.

Also, contrary to our image abroad as a nation of huge drinkers, the Czechs take the prize as the biggest beer consumers and Portugese the biggest wine guzzlers.