Why Rome is one of the 'unhealthiest' capital cities in Europe

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Why Rome is one of the 'unhealthiest' capital cities in Europe
Heavy traffic in central Rome. Photo: AFP

Factors including expensive gym membership, poor air quality and low quality of life meant Rome scored poorly in a new survey of the healthiest European capital cities.


Rome came 42nd out of the 46 cities surveyed, ranking between the Romanian capital Bucharest and Ankara, Turkey, in the survey of international capitals, published by pharmacy website

The study was based on data on ten variables relating to health, which were each ranked out of 46, the study's creators explained.

The variables included the monthly cost of membership to a fitness club, life expectancy, air quality, CO2 emissions, quality of green spaces and the average cost of fresh fruit and vegetables in each city.

Data was collected from sources including NumbeoHPI ThinkTankWorld Population ReviewWorld Bank Group and Index Mundi. The data can be viewed here.

Rome scored poorly on almost all of the variables in the study.

The exception was life expectency; Rome has the third-highest of all the cities surveyed. Italy on the whole is famed for the long life expectancy of its residents.

Rome also scored moderately on the quality of its green spaces, which may come as a surprise to residents. The capital is known for having numerous large green spaces within the city limits - although some complain that they are not always well maintained.

And the city also got a “moderate” rating for the pricing of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Rome often scores poorly in similar international rankings related to health and quality of life. 

A Greenpeace study ranked it among the worst in Europe for traffic and air pollution, and the city was recently named one of the "worst cities in the world” for international residents to move to.

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Along with Rome, Bucharest and Ankara, Moscow and Baku made up the bottom five cities in the ranking.

Danish capital Copenhagen was ranked the healthiest city in the survey, partly because of its low CO2 emissions (second-lowest overall) and clean drinking water (third-highest quality).

It was followed by Vienna, Bern, Helsinki and Berlin.

“Not only are these variables representative of our physical wellbeing, but they also relate to our psychological health,” Daniel Atkinson, GP clinical lead with, said in a press release.

“The quality of green spaces is a prime example of this. People need decent green spaces in their cities because they’re oxygen rich, of benefit to the respiratory system and can be prime locations to exercise freely.”

“But another important facet in relation to this study surrounds the ‘accessibility’ of things which are of physical benefit to us. This can include variables like the cost of a gym membership and the cost of healthy food,” Atkinson added.


The low number of people cycling and walking and the associated high CO2 emissions are closely related to Rome's placing in the study.

“CO2 emissions are also important, perhaps more particularly in capital cities where there is usually more congestion," Atkinson said.

"The higher the rate of carbon dioxide, the more harmful it becomes. Specifically, over-exposure to carbon dioxide will make us feel restless, drowsy, tired, increase the heart rate and our blood pressure, make us sweat and inflict headaches,” Atkinson said.

READ ALSO: The ten things you need to know before moving to Rome


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