Special Report

The Most (and Least) Healthy Countries in the World

10. Nigeria
> Life expectancy:
52.4 years
> Infant mortality rate (per 1,000 live births): 69.4
> Health expenditure per capita: $217
> Unemployment rate: 7.5%

Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa with more than 170 million residents. Unfortunately, that population lives in one of least healthy countries in the world. A typical person born today in Nigeria has a life expectancy of just 52.4 years. An average American can expect to live at least 25 years longer on average. Like so many unhealthy nations, the country struggles with an unsustainable birth rate, with more than 40 births each year for every 1,000 residents. Each year, the population grows by 2.7%, close to four times the U.S. rate of 0.7%. The high birth rate is accompanied by a high infant mortality rate, at nearly 70 deaths for every 1,000 live births, 12 times the U.S. rate.

9. Kenya
> Life expectancy:
61.0 years
> Infant mortality rate (per 1,000 live births): 35.5
> Health expenditure per capita: $101
> Unemployment rate: 9.2%

Compared to the other least healthy countries in the world, Kenya has a somewhat higher life expectancy. At just 61 years on average, however, it is still 17.8 years less than the U.S. life expectancy. Apart from physical health, Kenya’s 44 million residents also are often victims of violence. Islamic radicals have unleashed several deadly terror attacks on the East African nation in the last few years, including an attack on the Westgate Mall, which killed 67 people, and the assault last April on the Garissa University college, which resulted in the deaths of 147 people, mostly students.

8. Zambia
> Life expectancy:
59.2 years
> Infant mortality rate (per 1,000 live births): 43.3
> Health expenditure per capita: $192
> Unemployment rate: 13.3%

Zambia has been relatively free of the violence that has plagued much of the region. The nation has also experienced robust economic growth in the past decade, as it has benefitted from its substantial copper reserves. Despite benefitting from these conditions, the nation’s residents have one of the lowest levels of well-being in the world. The nation’s rapid population growth may be a part of the problem. The current population is growing at rate faster than 3% per year, roughly four times the U.S. growth rate. Low income and high unemployment are likely to restrict residents’ available income and access to health care. More than 13% of the nation’s workforce is unemployed, higher than in all but a few nations. Zambia’s extremely low 0.2 physicians per 1,000 people likely further restricts residents’ access to care. The United States’ ratio, in contrast, is 2.5 physicians per 1,000 people.

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