What are the world’s 10 healthiest countries?

by Maria Inês Teixeira
January 03, 2021
woman exercise in one of the healthiest countries in the world

Would you say you live in a healthy country? In fact, what makes a country “healthy” in the first place?  Is it the weather? People’s attitudes? The food?  Well, it’s complicated. Living in one of the world’s healthiest countries is all of that and more. 

To determine what countries are the healthiest or unhealthiest, the Bloomberg Global Health Index uses criteria that might be obvious at first, such as life expectancy and health risk factors (obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes). But other criteria might not be so obvious: access to clean water, causes of death in the country and malnutrition, just to name a few. Then, each country is given a rating out of a score of 100.

So let’s check what countries are the healthiest using the Bloomberg Global Health Index! 

1. Spain

If you’ve read our article on why Spain was the healthiest country in 2019, you might not be that surprised. But still – here’s Spain again, rocking our world with delicious tapas, inviting sunny weather, a love for all things artistic, nourishing traditions and siesta. The combination of these elements – as well as a steady healthcare system and love for gastronomy that feeds your soul as well as your body with high-quality ingredients – keeps Spain at the top.

2. Italy

Italy might not have the world’s strongest economy, but it sure does win all over when it comes to health (and charm!). Like Spain, Portugal and Greece, Italy largely follows a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts, which has been proven to be one of the healthiest. The weather is equally inviting, allowing Italians to walk outside or relax under the sun – all part of a relaxing lifestyle!

3. Iceland

Iceland continuously ranks among the countries with the healthiest life quality in the world. The long summers, incredible natural landscapes and the popularity of outdoor activities definitely play in its favour. The spirit of community and collaboration is also a profound part of Iceland’s structure. Could it be a coincidence that there isn’t a single McDonald’s restaurant in Iceland? (You can still find tasty burgers in local restaurants, though!).

4. Japan

Japan is a country of many contradictions, as many Japan-loving expats will tell you, and many factors help it rank high. Not only are food portions small and traditional ingredients diverse, but mealtimes are also respected as moments to slow down and enjoy the food. Most Japanese also prefer to walk wherever they need to go rather than drive, and their schoolchildren are among the healthiest in the world.

5. Switzerland

Switzerland stays true to its roots: you can’t find fast food chains everywhere (especially outside of larger cities) and you can be sure that everything will be closed on Sundays, allowing for a slower lifestyle. Generally, the Swiss also prefer a substantial, nourishing meal rather than reaching for unhealthy snacks throughout the day. Of course, outdoor activities and sports are massive in a country where nature makes our jaw drop, too! 

6. Sweden

Northern Europe consistently makes an impression with its sustainable lifestyle and well-developed public health care. Sweden is right here to prove it! Living in Sweden comes with some pretty inviting perks: long paid vacations, plenty of outdoor fun, the traditional coffee and pastry break (fika),  free education for almost anyone and a lifestyle that prioritises wellbeing over stress. We’re ready to move! 

7. Australia

While obesity continues to be a serious (and growing) problem in Australia, citizens have equal access to health care and the government continues to bet on health campaigns that inspire citizens to make better choices (for example, smoking rates continue to decline). Australia also provides clean water, air and sanitation, as well as outdoor activities that involve contact with nature, so it does deserve a seat at the table!

8. Singapore

Bloomberg considered Singapore the world’s healthiest country in 2015 for a reason: many Singaporeans live to see the world as 85-year olds and are supported by a solid healthcare system. Smoking rates are low, deaths by heart disease continue to decrease, and 90% of households live within a 10-minute walk from a park. If that’s not welcoming enough, here are 50 reasons why Singapore will blow your mind!

9. Norway

Norway brings the best of Northern Europe to your life, starting with a love for nature and being outdoors (friluftsliv) and exercise. Norwegians also tend to drink less alcohol compared to their neighboring countries and junk food isn’t really a frequent part of the menu. Family-friendly, plenty of space for camping, low crime rates and top-notch education: what else?

10. Israel

A fresh, nourishing diet combined with a proper healthcare system brings Israel to the top 10 healthiest countries. The Israeli diet is typically low in fat and rich in protein, vegetables, fruits and beans, making use of spices, herbs and seeds, too. Israelis have some of the lowest rates of cholesterol in the world and rank high due to access to doctors and medication, the number of hospital beds available and high life expectancy. Well worth the attention!

What other countries do you consider healthy?

It seems that the countries who remain healthier share a couple of factors: they have remained true to their own traditional cuisine rather than fast food, they prefer outdoor exercise to indoor gyms (and therefore, contact with nature is more common), the air quality is better (except in larger cities) and access to healthcare. 

Nevertheless, this list is according to Bloomberg and its criteria. That means you are free to suggest other countries you believe are healthy based on your own observations and experience! We’d love to know your opinion. Perhaps we’ll see you again in one of the world’s healthiest countries!

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