What is the Healthiest Country in the World?

Given the current state of affairs due to coronavirus pandemic, asking the question of “what is the healthiest country in the world?” may seem rather odd. Despite the pandemic, there are a collection of countries which continue to come out on top when it comes to global wellness studies.

According to the Indigo Wellness Index, Canada tops the charts for the world’s healthiest country, scoring 0.69/1. Meanwhile, Spain tops the list of the latest Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index, leaving both countries as contenders for the top spot.


The Indigo Wellness Index

Coming in just behind Canada in the Indigo Wellness Index, Oman was placed as the second healthiest country with 0.68 and Iceland coming a close third. Other small nations to make the top 10 included the Maldives, the Netherlands and Singapore. Notably, some larger countries in the index, including the United StatesGermanyFranceItaly and Japan, failed to break into the top 25.

The United Kingdom placed 17th, largely due to poor results in inactivity and obesity. The United States came 37th, brought down by inactivity, obesity and depression scores. South Africa was last of the 151 nations ranked.

The Indigo Wellness Index covers over 150 countries and observes data provided by World Health Organisation (WHO), the World Happiness Report, and public health data.

How are the Indigo Wellness Index Results Calculated?

The Indigo Wellness Index tracks the world’s healthiest countries using 10 measures:

  • Blood pressure
  • Blood glucose
  • Obesity
  • Depression
  • Happiness
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Tobacco consumption
  • Exercise
  • Healthy life expectancy
  • Government healthcare spend

Richard Davies, a former Bank of England and UK Treasury economist, who compiled the index, says, “While rich countries tend to lead, many emerging economies score more highly than some advanced nations. This is down to huge increases in life expectancy in these countries in recent years. “The low scores for countries like South Africa—an economy lauded for its growth rate in the 2000s—shows that simply ranking an economy based on traditional economic metrics like GDP alone can miss important parts of the story when it comes to the well-being of a nation.”

The rankings are measured from 0-1, with the highest score being the healthiest. The indicators are illustrated using a traffic light system, with a poor score (under 0.3) receiving a red mark, a fair score (0.3-0.5) obtaining a yellow mark and a good score (over 0.5) earning a green mark.

Although there are countries in the Top 25 and in the G20 with a high Gross Domestic Product (and hence high healthcare spending), this does not necessarily translate into positive lifestyle factors, with rich countries experiencing high rates of depression and obesity, the report says.

“A striking observation is the finding that while rich countries tend to lead the Index, there are many emerging economies that are doing better than advanced nations. This reflects the huge increases in life expectancy in these countries in recent years, and the poor scores for depression and obesity that advanced countries like the United States receive.”

Across the 20 most populous countries outside of the G20, there is a huge disparity in performance, says the report.

The best of these performers is the Philippines, which ranks highly due to low levels of obesity and depression. The bottom of this group includes Egypt (poor score on obesity, blood glucose and life expectancy), Iraq, and Ukraine (poor rankings for depression and blood pressure).

Bloomberg Healthiest Countries Index

The Bloomberg Healthiest Countries Index ranks 169 economies according to factors contributing to overall health such as tobacco use, obesity and environmental issues. Spain has gained six places this year, moving up from sixth last year to first place and overtaking previous year’s winner, Italy.

Bloomberg Healthiest Countries Index Results

Spain has the highest life expectancy within the EU, and comes third after Japan and Switzerland when ranked globally. The report points to the famously healthy and life-extending Mediterranean diet as a big contributing factor to overall health. When combined with a great climate and impressive healthcare, the country ticks many boxes to come in top place.

Europe has done well in the report, with Sweden (6th), Switzerland (5th), Iceland (3rd) and Norway (9th) all placing in the Top Ten. Globally, Australia came in seventh and Israel tenth.

Canada was only 17th in this index, with near neighbours, New Zealand, close behind in 18th. The UK and Ireland came in at 19th and 20th, respectively.

The USA, ostensibly also down to poor obesity and mental health scores, languishes in 35th place.

OEDC Better Life Index

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OEDC) Better Life Index looks at a number of factors within the UK including health, education and income.

What is the State of the UK’s Health?

Overall, personal well-being levels have improved in the UK, with the average life expectancy standing at 81, which is 1 year more than the average across other OEDC countries. This is largely down to higher standards of living and higher healthcare spending per person, with 69% of UK citizens claiming to be in good health.

In terms of ‘life satisfaction’, when UK citizens were asked to grade their life as a whole, the average score was 6.8 out of 10. This score places the UK above the average of other OEDC countries, where the score was 6.5.

[This article uses the latest data available from sources including the OECD, Eurobarometer, European Quality of Life Survey, Eurostat, Gallup World Poll, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, the United Nations and the World Health Organisation.]