The average life expectancy at birth worldwide climbed from 52.6 years in 1960 to 71.9 years in 2015. The improvement in global longevity is largely the product of healthier lifestyles and advances in medical technology and treatment. Not all countries have benefited equally from improvements in health and health care, however. In some parts of the world, living to be 60 years old is still a rare occurrence. In others, living to be over than 80 is the norm.
Health outcomes often reflect the broader economic conditions in a country. The world’s healthiest countries are all highly developed with universal, largely taxpayer-funded health care systems. Meanwhile, the world’s least healthy countries struggle to provide basic services such as electricity and clean water to large swaths of their populations, let alone a health care system of any kind.
The implications of limited public works and health care infrastructure are staggering. In the least healthy countries, both infant and maternal mortality rates are many times higher than the global average and often hundreds of times higher than in the world’s healthiest countries. The least healthy countries also often have far greater than average incidences of contagious diseases.
On a global scale, factors such as public policy and infrastructure have a much greater bearing on public health than behaviors at an individual level.
24/7 Wall St. created an index that consists of life expectancy, infant mortality, maternal mortality, and incidence of tuberculosis to identify the most (and least) healthy countries in the world. Notably absent from the list is the United States, which ranks 34th in the world. The majority of the 10 healthiest countries are in Western Europe. The 10 least healthy countries are all in sub-Saharan Africa.
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