The Healthiest (and Least Healthy) Countries in the World

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The Healthiest Countries

10. Australia
> Life expectancy: 79.9 (5th highest)
> Infant mortality rate (per 1,000 live births): 3.4 (21st lowest)
> Health expenditure per capita: $6,140 (6th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 5.7% (58th lowest)

Based on an assessment of healthy behaviors and outcomes, access to health services, and various economic factors, Australia is the 10th healthiest country in the world. The country’s strong national health care system compared to most countries largely explains its ranking. There were about 3.3 physicians per 1,000 Australians in 2011, the 26th highest such ratio out of the 174 nations reviewed, and well more than twice the global prevalence of just over 1.5 physicians per 1,000 people. In addition, annual health spending totalled $6,140 per capita, sixth highest of all countries reviewed and nearly six times the global expenditure of $1,030 per capita. Partly as a result, country residents had among the world’s longest life expectancies at nearly 80 years in 2012. However, Australia also had a relatively high obesity rate, at 28.6%, and a relatively high alcohol consumption rate.

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9. Sweden
> Life expectancy: 79.9 (5th highest)
> Infant mortality rate (per 1,000 live births): 2.4 (8th lowest)
> Health expenditure per capita: $5,319 (10th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 8.1% (62nd highest)

Like in most of the healthiest countries, Sweden has universal health coverage, with patient fees covering only a very small percentage of health costs. The country’s annual health expenditures totalled $5,319 per capita, the 10th highest spending worldwide. The high health care spending and strong coverage have resulted in good health outcomes compared to most countries. There were just two infant mortalities per 1,000 live births and four maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in Sweden, both nearly the lowest such rates worldwide. Swedes also live longer than most people, with a life expectancy at birth of roughly 80 years. Compared to other healthy countries, however, Sweden’s 2013 unemployment rate of 8.1% was relatively high.

8. Singapore
> Life expectancy: 79.9 (5th highest)
> Infant mortality rate (per 1,000 live births): 2.2 (5th lowest)
> Health expenditure per capita: $2,426 (22nd highest)
> Unemployment rate: 2.8% (13th lowest)

The small island nation of Singapore has a remarkably strong economy. Less than 3% of Singapore’s workforce was unemployed in 2013, one of the lowest unemployment rates worldwide. Also, Singapore’s GDP per capita of $55,182 in 2013 was one of the higher economic outputs worldwide. In addition to a strong economy, Singapore fares especially well in health measures. The nation’s obesity rate of 6.2% was among the lower rates worldwide, and especially low compared to the healthiest countries. A child born in 2013 was also expected to live roughly 80 years, tied for the fifth highest life expectancy worldwide. While the city-state’s health care system is universal, like many other especially healthy countries, it is a unique system. Residents are subject to a forced savings rate, and funds for medical expenses are saved in a Medisave Account. Catastrophic health insurance enrollment is automatic for all residents as well, although people can opt out.

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7. Austria
> Life expectancy: 78.4 (20th highest)
> Infant mortality rate (per 1,000 live births): 3.2 (15th lowest)
> Health expenditure per capita: $5,407 (9th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 4.9% (45th lowest)

Health care spending in Austria totalled about $5,400 per capita annually, ninth highest out of all countries reviewed. Like many other healthy countries, the relatively high level of health care expenditure helps increase the number of physicians and quality of health care. There were nearly five doctors per 1,000 Austrians in 2011, the fourth highest ratio globally. As in most of the healthiest nations, the Austrian government controls most functions of the country’s health care system. While Austria is one of the healthiest countries, nearly half of adult Austrians reported a smoking habit in 2011, one of the higher smoking rates worldwide.

6. Iceland
> Life expectancy: 81.6 (the highest)
> Infant mortality rate (per 1,000 live births): 1.6 (tied-the lowest)
> Health expenditure per capita: $3,872 (16th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 5.6% (56th lowest)

Iceland, by population, is the smallest of the 10 healthiest countries. Iceland is the sixth healthiest country worldwide partly because it had the highest life expectancy, which at 81.6 years was also a full year longer than Switzerland, the country with the second highest life expectancy. About 18% of adult Iceland women smoked, the 88th highest rate of all countries, while 19% of all adult males smoked, 17th highest of all countries. Iceland also had the lowest infant mortality rate, at just 1.6 deaths per 1,000 live births. Iceland’s low infant mortality rate came even though a relatively low 91% of children aged 12 to 23 months received DPT — diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), and tetanus — and measles vaccines.