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Healthy choice of the world’s healthiest cities

Published: Thursday 23 August 2018

We can all agree that when you are looking to emigrate, finding a healthy environment is vital. But what the experts don’t see eye-to-eye on is exactly which are the healthiest cities in the world.

In the last month, a trio of top round-ups of the healthiest cities have been released, differing widely on the best places to settle when emigrating – or even for visiting on holiday.

Halo Financial highlights the results from each of the surveys – so you can have a really healthy choice over which cities around the world provide the best health and wellbeing benefits.

Amsterdam named healthiest city by Spotahome

Top of the 2018 World’s Healthiest Cities survey from online rental specialist Spotahome is Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, with an overall score of 6.97/10. Next, comes Oslo, Norway, on 6.61 and Munich, Germany, just behind on 6.60.

89 locations across the world are ranked in Spotahome’s healthy city index, based on 10 factors. These are life expectancy, work-life balance, sunshine, gym rating, obesity, fast food outlets, vacation days, air and water quality, green space and even electric car charging points.

Valuing healthy social habits

Spotahome says, “It's easier to stay healthy in a city with healthy social habits – places where clean air, fresh food and high-quality exercise facilities are valued. But it's much harder in cities with high levels of pollution, too many fast-food restaurants and not enough green space.”

The rest of the top 10 were, Rotterdam, the Netherlands (6.60); Berlin, Germany (6.52); Tallinn, Estonia (6.36); Vienna, Austria (6.31); Adelaide, Australia (6.31); Helsinki, Finland (6.30); and Perth, Australia (6.30).

Bilbao, Spain, is Europe’s healthiest city

In third place is Bilbao, Spain. Over the past 25 years, Bilbao has transformed its economy from being centred on its port to services and international business. The transit system has been updated and blighted industrial areas regenerated. Now it attracts projects by some of the world’s most prominent architects. The city has cut air pollution to just 4.4 micrograms of pollutant per cubic metre of air, ranking it among the cleanest worldwide.

Europe and Australia make up top 10

Eight of the top ten healthiest cities are in Europe, with Perth (6.30) and Adelaide (6.31) representing the only competition from the rest of the world.

Oslo scores highly in green space (9.36) work-life balance (9.1), life expectancy (8.42) and air and water quality (8.5).
bike on amsterdam street in city

Montreal heads North America choices

Montreal, Canada, was judged the healthiest North American city, coming 21st.

Casablanca is named least healthy city

Casablanca, Morocco (3.25); Istanbul, Turkey (3.46); Shanghai, China (3.53); São Paulo, Brazil (3.66); and Mexico City (3.73) are the five least healthy cities listed by Spotahome, all scoring poorly for air and water quality, green spaces and life expectancy.

Shizuoka tops 24/7 WallSt.com healthy cities

Meanwhile, the 24/7 WallSt.com website produced its own annual list of the World’s Healthiest Cities, based on life expectancy, exposure to air pollution and infant mortality.

In its top spot is Shizuoka in Japan. The city, on the southern coast of Honshu, has one of the highest rates of life expectancy and one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world. Japan’s universal health care system, which is financed mostly through insurance, is ranked among the best in the world. Shizuka is the country’s leading producer of green tea, wasabi, and tuna and so plenty of fresh, seasonal food is available.

Japanese cities dominate top 10

For similar reasons, in second place is Niigata, Japan, to the west of Honshu. In fact, Japanese cities occupy the four out of the top five places and also dominate the top 10.

Making up the remainder of 24/7 WallSt.com’s top 10 is Wakayama, Japan; Nagasaki, Japan; Las Palmas, Spain; Hiroshima, Japan; Oslo, Norway and Kochi, Japan.

Healthiest US cities judged by ACSM

At the same time, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has produced its 2018 report of the Healthiest and Unhealthiest Big Cities in America.

The annual report takes 33 indicators into account including exercise, health outcomes, disease, mental health, fruit and veg consumption. It also examined urban lifestyle factors including parkland and recreational attractions as well as funding.

Arlington healthiest US city

The winner of the healthiest city is Arlington, Virginia, with an overall score of 77.7. It had the highest percentage of healthy individuals and the lowest ratio of smokers. The city has 49 miles of paved multi-use trails, active biking community, and initiatives to encourage healthy habits in school.

Minneapolis is runner-up

Second is Minneapolis, Minnesota, on 77.2. It scored highly for low high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes levels as well as impressive community programming. The city boasts 6,800 acres of parks and 102 miles of biking and walking paths.

Washington D.C in third

The capital, Washington D.C., was third on 74. It has the most farmers’ markets per capita and 70 miles of bike lanes, but is hampered by a 15% ratio of smokers.

Madison and Portland make up top five

Madison, in Wisconsin, was fourth overall on 72.4 and topped seven health indicators for recent exercise, getting enough sleep, blood pressure, stroke risk, and the number of playgrounds, basketball hoops, and parks.

Portland, Oregon, was fifth in the ACSM list of America’s healthiest big cities on 71.6.

Oklahoma ranked as unhealthiest city

The unhealthiest big city in the United States is Oklahoma City, according to the rankings. It had an overall score of just 26.3. However, the city has just introduced a Plan OKC health initiative and aims to create more walking paths.

Indianapolis and Louisville also score low

The second unhealthiest city is Indianapolis in Indiana, home of the Indy 500 on 26.9 points, due to low personal health scores and environment scores.

The third unhealthiest city, on 27 points, is Louisville, Kentucky.
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