The Most (and Least) Healthy Countries in the World

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5. Sweden
> Life expectancy: 82.0
> Infant mortality rate (per 1,000 live births): 2.4
> Health expenditure per capita: $6,808
> GDP per capita: $48,199

Indicative of both a healthy population and capable medical facilities, childbirth is almost never fatal in Sweden. Both the country’s infant mortality and maternal mortality rates are nearly the lowest in the world. Additionally, life expectancy at birth in the country is 82 years, approximately three years longer than in the United States.

Long, healthy lives come at a cost in Sweden. The country spends $6,808 annually in both public and private investments on health care, more than all but four other countries reviewed. Like many other countries on this list, health care is a universal right in Sweden, ensured by the state.

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4. Singapore
> Life expectancy: 82.6
> Infant mortality rate (per 1,000 live births): 2.1
> Health expenditure per capita: $2,752
> GDP per capita: $85,382

The presence of tuberculosis, all but eliminated in many affluent nations, is often a sign of deficiencies in a country’s health system. Compared to many of the healthiest nations, the incidence rate of tuberculosis in Singapore — at 44 new cases each year per 100,000 residents — is somewhat high. While it is an outlier in this regard, the southeast Asian city-state is in most measures one of the healthiest nations on earth.

The average life expectancy at birth of 82.6 years is 3.7 years longer than in the United States. Singapore also has one of the lowest infant and maternal mortality rates of any nation.

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3. Italy
> Life expectancy: 82.7
> Infant mortality rate (per 1,000 live births): 2.9
> Health expenditure per capita: $3,258
> GDP per capita: $35,781

Indicative of both a healthy population and an effective health care system, tuberculosis is relatively rare in Italy. The Mediterranean country’s annual tuberculosis incidence rate of 5.8 diagnosis per 100,000 people is well below all but a handful of other nations.

Like many other countries on this list, Italians are guaranteed essential health care services through their government. Despite universal coverage, Italy spends far less on health care than the United States. Public and private health care costs amount to $3,258 per person a year in Italy, a fraction of the $9,403 per capita annual health care expenditure in the United States.

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2. Japan
> Life expectancy: 83.6
> Infant mortality rate (per 1,000 live births): 2.0
> Health expenditure per capita: $3,703
> GDP per capita: $38,142

The Japanese are more likely to live longer and healthier lives than residents of nearly any other country. Life expectancy at birth in the east Asian nation is 83.6 years, the longest of all countries considered.

Health insurance coverage is universal in Japan, and patients are only responsible for a maximum of 30% of their medical bills. Additionally, according to the most recent available data from the World Bank, there are 14.1 hospital beds in the country for every 1,000 residents, far and away the most in the world among those with available data. Japan’s health care system changed recently, implementing new surcharges and incentivizing certain preventative dental treatments as the country’s rapidly-aging population is putting considerable strain on the system.

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1. Iceland
> Life expectancy: 82.1
> Infant mortality rate (per 1,000 live births): 1.6
> Health expenditure per capita: $4,662
> GDP per capita: $45,666

The small nation of Iceland ranks as the healthiest country in the world. Iceland performs better than most nations in life expectancy, infant and maternal mortality, and incidence of diseases like tuberculosis.

Like many of the healthiest nations, health spending is quite high in Iceland, with the equivalent of $4,662 per capita spent on health care. Iceland has a state-funded, universal health care system. Icelanders are also required by law to register with a physician, which may further increase the frequency with which residents receive preventative care.