The Most (and Least) Healthy Countries in the World

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The Healthiest Countries in the World

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10. Israel
> Life expectancy: 82.1
> Infant mortality rate: 2.9 (per 1,000 live births)
> Health expenditure per capita: $2,599
> GDP per capita: $37,662

Israel is the only Middle Eastern nation — and one of only three countries not in Western Europe — to rank among the healthiest in the world. Israel’s 3.5 per 100,000 tuberculosis infection rate is nearly the lowest of any country and well below the comparable 140 per 100,000 global rate. Perhaps the most telling metric for the relative health of Israel’s population is the country’s 82.1 year life expectancy at birth, which is over a decade longer than average life expectancy worldwide and well above the 78.7 year U.S. average.

The population of the world’s healthiest countries are typically concentrated in urban areas. In Israel, 92.2% of the residents live in urban areas, well above the 54.3% global average.

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9. Spain
> Life expectancy: 83.4
> Infant mortality rate: 2.7 (per 1,000 live births)
> Health expenditure per capita: $2,966
> GDP per capita: $39,961

Spain’s life expectancy at birth of 83.4 years is nearly the highest in world and 11.5 years longer than the average life expectancy worldwide. Like most countries with the healthiest populations, Spain is relatively wealthy with greater than typical health care spending. The Western European country’s GDP per capita of nearly $40,000 is higher than that of the vast majority of countries. Additionally, the country’s annual public and private health care expenditures total nearly $3,000 per person — more than double the global per capita health expenditures of $1,271.

Like every other country on this list, Spain provides universal public health care. The Spanish National Health System covers most medical care without any cost to the patient.

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8. Norway
> Life expectancy: 82.1
> Infant mortality rate: 2.1 (per 1,000 live births)
> Health expenditure per capita: $6,347
> GDP per capita: $72,702

Norway is one of four Nordic countries rank among the healthiest countries in the world. Relatively wealthy, Norway spends far more on health care on a per capita basis than most countries. Norway’s GDP per capita of $72,702 is eighth highest in the world. Similarly, the country’s public and private health care spending total is $6,347 per person per year, more than that of all but four other countries and about five times the comparable global spending rate.

The country’s high health spending has likely contributed to some positive health outcomes. For example, Norway’s life expectancy of 82.1 years is over a decade longer than it is worldwide and about 3.4 years longer than in the United States.

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7. Sweden
> Life expectancy: 82.6
> Infant mortality rate: 2.4 (per 1,000 live births)
> Health expenditure per capita: $5,219
> GDP per capita: $53,150

Infant mortality and maternal mortality rates in a country can be a good indicator of the health of a country’s population as well as of the quality of the country’s health care system. The countries on this half of the list, including Sweden, share exceptionally low rates in both measures. In Sweden, the infant mortality rate is 2.4 per 1,000 live births, and the maternal mortality rate is 4 per 100,000 live births. Worldwide, the respective average rates are 30.5 per 1,000 and 216 per 100,000.

As a state with universal health care, all Swedish citizens automatically have health insurance, paid for by taxes. In addition to insuring coverage for all of its residents, Sweden’s national health care policy encourages local governments to engage in preventive medicine. These expenses lead to some of the highest per capita health spending in the world, at $5,219 per person.

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6. Italy
> Life expectancy: 83.5
> Infant mortality rate: 2.8 (per 1,000 live births)
> Health expenditure per capita: $3,239
> GDP per capita: $39,072

Like each of the healthiest countries in the world, Italy has established health coverage as a right. The state offers a public health plan to all of its citizens, although private medical insurance and care is also an option.

Italians are the longest-lived Europeans, with a life expectancy at birth of 83.5 years, which is close to five years longer than the U.S. life expectancy. Like many of the countries on this list, Italy’s high quality health care system will be put to the test in the coming years as the population ages. In addition to a high life expectancy, the nation has one of the lowest birth rates in the world, at just 8 births per 100,000, the second lowest birth rate, trailing only Japan.