According to the 2019 edition of the Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index, which ranks 169 economies according to factors that contribute to overall health Spain has overtaken Italy to become the world’s healthiest country.
Four additional European nations were among the top 10 in 2019: Iceland (third place), Switzerland (fifth), Sweden (sixth) and Norway (ninth). Japan was the healthiest Asian nation, jumping three places from the 2017 survey into fourth and replacing Singapore, which dropped to eighth. Australia and Israel rounded out the top 10 at seventh and 10th place.
How Bloomberg Ranks the Healthiest Countries in the World
Bloomberg Global Health Index evaluates 169 countries in its report. The factors used to rank the countries include:
- Health risks (tobacco use, high blood pressure, obesity)
- Health Care Systems
- Availability of clean water
- Life expectancy
- Causes of death
Spain has the highest life expectancy at birth among European Union nations, and trails only Japan and Switzerland globally (Source: United Nations). By 2040 Spain is forecast to have the World’s longest life expectancy, at almost 86 years, followed by Japan, Singapore and Switzerland. (Source: University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation).
“Primary care is essentially provided by public providers, specialized family doctors and staff nurses, who provide preventive services to children, women and elderly patients, and acute and chronic care,” Spain has seen a decline over the past decade in cardiovascular diseases and deaths from cancer. (Source: European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies 2018 review of Spain).
Spanish Eating Habits combined with Exercise Explains why they are so Healthy
Researchers say eating habits provide clues to health levels enjoyed by Spain and Italy, as a “Mediterranean diet, supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts, had a lower rate of major cardiovascular events than those assigned to a reduced-fat diet,” (Source: University of Navarra Medical School).
Spanish people eat and drink in moderation. They prefer mostly whole foods simply prepared, and eat few take away meals and processed ready meals. They also eat slowly and sitting at the table, they make time to eat and respect their food.
The Spanish are also extremely active and spend more time outdoors and in the sunshine than most other nations.
The UK came in 19th position, to a large extent due to the obesity crisis also affecting the USA.
Being overweight or obese is the single biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking
The 2015 Health Survey for England found that 63% of adults in England were overweight or obese, with 27% classed as obese. This is linked to 18,100 cases every year in the UK alone. And this is despite a boom in Gym membership.
A recent study estimated that at the current rate of increase there will a further 670,000 cancer cases over the next 20 years. (Source: Cancer Research UK and the UK Health Forum).
Thirteen types of cancer are linked to this risk factor including, breast (after menopause), bowel and womb. Obesity is also a risk factor for diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke and other health conditions.
In 2012 the total economic cost of obesity to the UK was estimated at £47 billion
Meanwhile in North America, Canada’s 16th-place ranking far surpassed the U.S. and Mexico, both of which dropped slightly to 35th and 53rd. Life expectancy in the U.S. has been trending lower due to deaths from drug overdoses and suicides.
Cuba placed five spots above the U.S., making it the only nation not classified as “high income” by the World Bank to be ranked that high.
One reason for the island nation’s success may be its emphasis on preventative care over the U.S. focus on diagnosing and treating illness, the American Bar Association Health Law Section said in a report last year after visiting Cuba.
It’s clear from the report that Diet and Preventative care are the two most important factors in achieving a long and healthy life. Welcome to Spain!