Special Report

The Most (and Least) Healthy Countries in the World


To determine the most and least healthy countries, 24/7 Wall St. collected data on 23 measures in 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 1 to 171, with lower values indicating better scores.

One challenge was data availability for all 171 countries. We addressed this challenge in two ways. We accepted data for the most recent year available but no older than 2011. Also, data had to be available for at least 75% of countries. In addition, we only considered countries with at least 250,000 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 also came came the World Bank. Lastly, we considered per capita alcohol consumption rates from the World Health Organization (WHO).

The access category was designed to measure the availability of specific resources critical to the health of a population. We looked at the share of a country’s population with access to clean water, clean air, and electricity — all data came 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.

Click here to see the healthiest countries in the world.

Click here to see the least healthy countries in the world.

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