The Healthiest (and Least Healthy) Countries in the World

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To determine the most and least healthy countries, 24/7 Wall St. collected data on 21 measures on more than 170 countries. These measures were grouped into three categories: health, access, and economy.

While our index aspires to be comprehensive, many measures are also interrelated. To account for interdependence, our index was created using a geometric mean rather than the traditional arithmetic mean. We then used the geometric mean of each index to calculate a country’s overall score. Potential scores ranged from one to 172, with lower values indicating better scores.

One challenge was data availability for all 172 countries. We addressed this challenge in two ways. The data is for the most recent year available but also needed to be no older than 2010. Secondly, data had to be available for at least 75% of countries. In addition, we only considered countries with at least 150,000 people.

The health category captured both outcomes and residents’ behaviors in each country. Infant mortality, fertility, maternal mortality, and the incidence of various diseases came from the World Bank. We used the World Bank’s life expectancy figure for males as a proxy for life expectancies for all people because it is much more widely available in the countries reviewed. Smoking rates and the percentage of children with certain immunizations also came come the World Bank. Lastly, we considered per capita alcohol consumption and adult obesity rates from the World Health Organization (WHO).

The access category was designed to measure the availability of specific resources that are critical to the health of a nation’s people. We looked at the share of a country’s population with access to clean water, clean air, and electricity — all data from the World Bank. Additionally, we looked at the concentration of physicians in each country as a proxy for how easily residents can access health care.

Economic conditions also have an impact on health and health outcomes. The economy category included per capita health expenditure by public and private sources, as well as poverty and unemployment rates. All economic data came from the World Bank.