Special Report

The Healthiest (and Least Healthy) Countries in the World

5. Japan
> Life expectancy: 79.9 (4th highest)
> Infant mortality rate (per 1,000 live births): 2.1 (3rd lowest)
> Health expenditure per capita: $4,752 (11th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 4.0% (32nd lowest)

With 127 million people, Japan is the most populous of the 10 healthiest countries in the world. Ironically, it had the highest death rate of the top 10 countries, at 10 per 1,000 people. About one quarter of the nation’s population was over 65 last year, a testament to the longevity and health of Japanese people. One factor contributing to the strong overall health rating is Japan’s adult obesity rate of 3.3%, which was seventh best in the world and the best out of the 10 healthiest countries. Despite its high ranking, Japan has relatively high smoking rates for both males and females and one of the higher rates of CO2 emissions, at 9.2 metric tons per capita, almost twice the global average of 4.9 metric tons per capita. Japan’s tuberculosis rate of 18 per 100,000 people was far below the global rate of 126 per 100,000 people.

4. Luxembourg
> Life expectancy: 79.1 (16th highest)
> Infant mortality rate (per 1,000 live births): 1.6 (tied-the lowest)
> Health expenditure per capita: $7,452 (4th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 5.9% (63rd lowest)

With the fourth highest per capita health care spending, Luxembourg, the only grand duchy in the world also has the fourth best health results, suggesting a link between health spending and outcomes. Luxembourg had the lowest mortality rates for both infants and children under five years old. But like most of the 10 healthiest countries, Luxembourg has a relatively high death rate. Though it is reasonably strong, the country’s overall health ranking is likely held back by its residents’ relatively high alcohol consumption of 11.9 liters per capita, and relatively high obesity rate of 23.1%.

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3. Switzerland
> Life expectancy: 80.6 (2nd highest)
> Infant mortality rate (per 1,000 live births): 3.6 (24th lowest)
> Health expenditure per capita: $8,980 (2nd highest)
> Unemployment rate: 4.4% (40th lowest)

With the second highest life expectancy of all nations, Switzerland is the third healthiest country in the world. Switzerland had 3.9 physicians per 1,000 people, the ninth highest ratio of the 172 nations reviewed. The country ranked high overall despite a relatively high death rate of nine deaths per 1,000 people as well as prevalent risk factors. The per capita alcohol consumption in Switzerland of 10.7 liters was almost 73% higher than the global average. Also, an estimated 22% of adult females and 31% of adult males smoked. The incidence of tuberculosis in Switzerland of 6.5 cases per 100,000 people was 16th highest in the world. Despite these habits, Switzerland’s population remains very healthy, perhaps due to its health care expenditure. An annual $8,980 per capita was spent on health in the country, the second highest globally.

2. Norway
> Life expectancy: 79.5 (9th highest)
> Infant mortality rate (per 1,000 live births): 2.3 (6th lowest)
> Health expenditure per capita: $9,055 (the highest)
> Unemployment rate: 3.5% (22nd lowest)

Norway spends more on health care per capita than any other country. The country’s annual health care spending totalled $9,055, ahead of Switzerland’s $8,980 and the United States’ $8,895. Norway had a relatively high death rate of 8.4 deaths per 1,000 people, six times that of Qatar. Norway’s infant mortality rate, its mortality rate for those under five, and life expectancy rate at birth all ranked within the top 10 of all nations, however. While the country fared relatively poorly on health measures, its economy is very strong, and residents have some of the best access to health professionals and facilities in the world. Norway had the second best access to services, reflecting clean water and that its entire population had access to electricity. There were also nearly four physicians per 1,000 people in the country, one of the highest shares.

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1. Qatar
> Life expectancy: 77.6 (28th highest)
> Infant mortality rate (per 1,000 live births): 7.0 (44th lowest)
> Health expenditure per capita: $2,029 (25th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 0.5% (2nd lowest)

While Qatar topped 24/7 Wall St.’s health rankings, it was the only country of the 10 healthiest not to have a national health care system. As the emirate is transitioning to a universal system, however, the health of its population may become even better. Qatar plans to have its entire population covered by the end of this year. With 7.7 physicians per 1,000 people, more than any other country, the country’s health system is already very good. Qatar fared very well in health, access, and economic measures, largely on the strength of its relatively low overall death rate of 1.4 deaths per 1,000 people and relatively low maternal mortality rate. The small Middle Eastern country, which is about the size of Connecticut, took steps to protect its citizens from diseases with 99% of children receiving the DPT and measles vaccines. As in several other prosperous and healthy nations, Qatar had the second-highest obesity rate in the world.