Who are the healthiest people in the world?

8 05 2017

healthyApologies for the little gap in my regular posts — I am in the fortunate position of having spent the last three weeks in the beautiful Villa Serbelloni in the village of Bellagio on the shores of Lake Como (northern Italy) engaged in writing a new book with my good friend and colleague, Professor Paul Ehrlich. Both of us received an invitation to become ‘Bellagio Centre Residents‘ by the Rockefeller Foundation to write the book in, shall we say, rather lush circumstances.

While I can’t yet give away all the juicy details of the book itself (we’ve only written about a third of it so far), I wanted to give you a little taste of some of the interesting results we’ve so far put together.

Today’s topic is on human health, which as I’ve written many times before, is in many ways linked to the quality of the environment in which people live. We are currently looking at which countries have the best human health statistics, as well as the best environmental conditions in which to live.

Before I get into the phenomenon of health itself (life expectancy and child mortality), it pays to examine which countries have the most investment in health and access to health-care facilities. No surprises really that the USA invests the highest amount of its GDP in health, but that much of that is private funding. Sweden, Switzerland, and France have just slightly lower total investments in health. Per capita the situation changes slightly, with Switzerland taking the top place, followed by Norway, USA, Monaco, and Luxembourg. But what about public (i.e., government) investment? The country on the planet with the greatest government commitment to health care is Cuba, followed by Sweden, Netherlands, Denmark, and New Zealand.

What does this mean for the availability of health care? Cuba again leads with the greatest number of doctors per capita, followed by Monaco, San Marino, Greece, and Australia, but Monaco, Cayman Islands, Greece, Australia, and Lithuania lead for the highest density of specialist surgeons.

If we examine air quality as a contributor to other fatal diseases (like heart disease), the countries with the lowest proportion of their populations exposed to inhalable particulate matter are Brunei, Iceland, New Zealand, Sweden, and Canada. However, in terms of the actual mortalities arising from air pollution, the fewest number of people dying from such complications are in Australia, Sweden, Brunei, and New Zealand. Finland, Canada, Iceland, and Norway occupy a close second position.

Now to the ‘meat’ — guess which country has the highest life expectancy? It turns out that the micro-state of San Marino in north-eastern Italy has the longest-lived women at 89 years, followed by Hong Kong and Japan at 87 years, and then Macao, South Korea, France, Spain, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Singapore, Finland and Italy at 85 years. For men (who almost universally die younger than women), San Marino also takes top spot (84 years), followed by Hong Kong, Iceland, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein (81 years). Averaged over both genders then (and ignoring the over-achieving San Marino), Hong Kong, Iceland, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein have the longest-lived people. On the other hand, if you live in Swaziland, Lesotho, Democratic Republic of Congo, or Sierra Leone, you can expect to live only 50 years on average.

Taking the mean ranks of infant mortality, neonate mortality, and the probability of dying by age five, the countries with the lowest child mortality in the world are Luxembourg, Iceland, Finland, Japan, and Singapore. In contrast, the highest rates of child death according to these combined metrics are in Angola, Central African Republic, Somalia, Chad, and Sierra Leone. Regionally, the best-performing countries in terms of child survival are Libya (Africa), Canada (North and Central America), Cuba (Caribbean), Chile (South America), Luxembourg (Europe), Israel (Middle East), Japan (Asia), and Australia (Oceania).

Stay tuned for more interesting national comparisons, especially on the environmental front (see also our previous work in this vein), as we compile more of the data.

CJA Bradshaw




One response

23 05 2017
Pilar Carbó Ramírez

Thank you, really interesting data.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: