These are the healthiest countries in the world
We count down the nations that are tops in life expectancy, access to medical care and availability of clean water.
Italy earned a place as the healthiest country in the world, according to Bloomberg's just-released Global Health Index. The country of almost 60 million people is tops in factors like life expectancy, health risks, access to water and good nutrition, and quality of health care. Conversely, the United States came in at No. 34.
The annual report, compiled from statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Population Division and the World Bank, ranked 50 countries out of 163. While the index in question doesn't speculate as to why certain countries ranked high, experts in health and nutrition say that Mediterranean-inspired diets – which include plenty of fresh produce, lean meats, fish and olive oil – are prominent in countries like Italy, Spain and Israel that landed near or at the top of the list.
With that in mind, here's a picturesque journey of the Global Health Index's Top 10.
Luxembourg was named the country with the best health care in the world by the acclaimed Legatum Institute in London earlier this year. This small European nation also has an average life expectancy of 82.
Life expectancy wins again. Male babies born in 2012 in Israel can expect to live an average of 80.2 years, according to the WHO. As with many of the leaders on this list, the Mediterranean diet is a big contributor to overall health, and that trend is playing out in Israel. Research has pointed to lowered risks of breast cancer and cognitive decline in people who adopt this diet.
Healthcare in Sweden is universal and largely tax-funded, resulting in a system that ensures everyone equal access to health care services. It also has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world.
If you want to live far past your 80s with little disease or disability, live in Japan. Its legacy as a center of wellness is widely known. “The way Japanese people eat and move gives them a major longevity and health advantage,” Japanese-American author Naomi Moriyama, author of “Secrets of the World's Healthiest Children: Why Japanese Children Have the Longest, Healthiest Lives – And How Yours Can Too," told the "Today" show.
Like Italy, Spain has had its share of economic woes. But that doesn't appear to affect the health of its citizens, as it was named Europe's healthiest country in 2013 by the Lancet medical journal.
If you don't live in Australia, you probably don't know what vegemite is. But apparently, this prevalent staple of Australian cuisine is but one factor in the country's reigning health triumphs. Others include its excellence in water access and sanitation and preventing malnutrition.
This small yet bustling island nation in Southeast Asia excels in factors such as low tobacco use, high life expectancy, low infant mortality, good nutrition and low percentage of underweight children.
Does a happy country produce healthy people, or is it the other way around? It's hard to say, but the Swiss prove victorious in both respects. Its quaint villages, world-class skiing and the epic Alps make Switzerland a top destination to visit and a huge pull for the outdoor crowd.
Iceland bears the distinction of having an average lifespan that's longer for women than it is for men. It also boasts world-class education and healthcare systems.
The volcanic mud bath at Terme di Vulcano on Vulcano Island in Sicily attracts visitors far and wide. (Photo: Starbuck Powersurge/Flickr)
Viva Italia indeed. This boot-shaped nation leads in a litany of factors, including life expectancy, access to care and water quality. And let's not forget to mention the opportunities for those who prefer to live a healthy, active life. The Dolomites stretch across Northern Italy and offer some of the best scenery in all of Europe, with extensive trails that give cyclists access to parts of the region that are not accessible to car-bound tourists.
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Related Topics: Healthy eating