These are the 10 healthiest countries in the world

So why didn’t the U.S. make the Top 10? Life expectancy has dropped quite a bit due to an increase in “deaths of despair.”

Seville by Joe Lin

A cursory check of the factors utilized by Bloomberg’s Healthiest Country Index, make it hard to be bemused by America not quite making the cut.  Obesity, tobacco use and life expectancy were just some of the contributory things that officially crowned Spain as the healthiest country in the world.

The U.S. came in at 35th, down one spot from 2017. Here were the other top contenders:


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The Top 10 healthiest nations

  1. Spain
  2. Italy
  3. Iceland
  4. Japan
  5. Switzerland
  6. Sweden
  7. Australia
  8. Singapore
  9. Norway
  10. Israel

This comes as little surprise, considering how much of a new life the Mediterranean diet experienced this year. In addition to the already documented benefits to heart health, weight loss, and cognitive decline prevention,  Ladders recently reported on the effect the diet has on mental health and cancer prevention. The study found that incidences of cancer are much lower in Mediterranean counties compared to the U.S.

Among European countries, Spain has the highest life expectancy at birth. The fact that primary care is both focused on preventive measures and typically administered by public providers is suspected to play a part in steadily declining instances of cardiovascular disease and fatal cancer diagnosis. The medical Journal Lancet predicts Spain’s life expectancy to rise to 85.8 years by the year 2040.

So why didn’t the U.S. make the cut? Life expectancy has dropped quite a bit due to an increase in “deaths of despair” (defined as suicides, drug and alcohol overdoses, and diseases from chronic alcoholism.) Plus the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that close to 40% of American adults are obese.

Check out the rest of the rankings below.

Roughly 93.3 million adults are currently obese in America, which costs us some serious penalty points. Moreover, our emphasis on treating and diagnosing as opposed to preemptive tactics has negatively impacted our mortality rates.

Italy, which ranked just below Spain, on balance adheres to very similar dietary traditions. Lots of fruits, vegetables, poultry, grains, with very little red meat. A large bulk of the items mentioned have been independently linked to lower fatality rates for many chronic illnesses.

Iceland which previously ranked number two, secured the third spot this year. Still, clean water, low levels of smoking and a great healthcare system, soars its health index score to 91.21.

Japan was named the healthiest Asian nation, coming in at number four overall. The country boasts an obesity rate of 3.5% and is ranked 48th in cancer rates.  Smaller portions and a national obsession with walking certainly didn’t hurt.

Switzerland, which rounds at the top five, can likely thank the disparity of fast food chains, markets that don’t remain open for twenty-four hours and a general shunning of the concept of snacking.


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CW Headley|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at cheadley@theladders.com.