Special Report

The Most (and Least) Healthy Countries in the World

7. Singapore
> Life expectancy:
82.3 years
> Infant mortality rate (per 1,000 live births): 2.1
> Health expenditure per capita: $3,578
> Unemployment rate: 3.0%

The geographically small but densely populated island nation of Singapore is home to approximately 5.5 million people who are among the healthiest in the world. The population’s good health is likely tied to the nation’s robust economy. Singapore thrives as a major trade and commerce center, and the nation boasts one of the highest GDPs per capita in the world. Just 3% of the nation’s workforce is unemployed, lower than in all but a handful of nations. Wealth typically translates to greater access to better health care, which likely explains the nation’s life expectancy of 82.3 years, the sixth longest in the world.

6. Switzerland
> Life expectancy:
82.7 years
> Infant mortality rate (per 1,000 live births): 3.4
> Health expenditure per capita: $6,187
> Unemployment rate: 4.5%

Higher health spending alone does not always translate to a healthier population, but most of the healthiest nations in the world tend to spend more on health care. Switzerland is no exception, with average health expenditures of $6,187 per person annually. While that is still nearly $3,000 less than the U.S. per capita figure, it remains one of the highest health expenditures in the world. As one of the most affluent nations in the world, the Swiss can afford to spend as much as they do on health. The nation’s GDP per capita of $58,149 is higher than that of all but a handful of countries. Health care coverage, while provided by private companies, is nearly universal in Switzerland. Citizens are required to have at least basic coverage, but the government subsidizes costs to prevent individuals from spending more than 10% of their incomes.

5. Iceland
> Life expectancy:
83.1 years
> Infant mortality rate (per 1,000 live births): 1.6
> Health expenditure per capita: $3,646
> Unemployment rate: 5.0%

Iceland is a relatively small and isolated nation with a population of roughly 328,000. The country’s economy is robust, however, with a GDP of $44,029 per capita — among the 20 wealthiest nations in the world. This relative wealth has likely helped maintain and improve its population’s good health. As is the case in most developed industrial economies, Iceland’s population has universal access to important amenities including clean water and electricity. Also, with 3.5 physicians per 100,000 residents, Icelanders are much more likely to have access to doctors than the populations of most other countries.

4. Japan
> Life expectancy:
83.3 years
> Infant mortality rate (per 1,000 live births): 2.0
> Health expenditure per capita: $3,741
> Unemployment rate: 3.7%

Many of the healthiest countries in the world have relatively small populations, but Japan has a population of more than 127 million people. A person born in Japan today is expected to live 83.3 years on average — a longer life expectancy than in every nation in the world and five years longer than the typical American’s life expectancy. Strangely, the nation has one of the highest death rates in the world, at 10.1 deaths for every 1,000 people. However, while a high death rate can point to a country’s health risks, in Japan this is likely due to the nation’s disproportionately older population.

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