Would you have guessed that Italians are the healthiest people in the world?
According to the recently published Bloomberg Global Health Index, Italians have got something right, as they come out top, as the healthiest people in the world. Perhaps, despite Italy’s economic woes, it’s to do with the Mediterranean diet, the beautiful scenery, the healthy work-life balance.
The index took into account factors such as life expectancy, smoking, blood pressure, incidences of high cholesterol, availability of clean water, malnutrition and causes of death. Iceland came second, which is less of a surprise, given the outdoor lifestyle its people tend to embrace and the fresh food incorporated in the Icelandic diet, and Switzerland, with its excellent healthcare system, third. Singapore, known for its cleanliness and again, excellent healthcare, is in fourth place, with Japan seventh; the only other Asian counties to make the top 50 were South Korea, in 24th place, and tiny Brunei, in 37th.
Israel ranked as the healthiest country in the Middle East – and anybody who has spent time there would understand why, with the abundance of high quality fresh food and the emphasis on health and fitness.
The UK only managed to reach 23rd place, outranked by much poorer countries like Portugal, Cyprus and Greece. But wealth does not necessarily equate to health. The big shock is the USA, which ranked a sorry 34th – less healthy than Costa Rica, Lebanon and even impoverished Cuba. The reason, the report cites, is obesity, and here, there is a correlation between poverty and being overweight. The four poorest states – Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and West Virginia, are also the heaviest. According to the US Center for Disease Control, more than 35 percent of these states’ population is considered obese.
What’s interesting is that the Nordic countries that have done so well in this health index (Sweden, Norway and Finland all came in the top 15) also scored high in a different study, the World Happiness Report, produced earlier this year by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network for the United Nations. Norwegians are happier than anybody – but Denmark, Iceland, Finland and Sweden all rank in the top ten.
Americans are happier than they are healthy – the USA came 14th, while Britain was a gloomy 19th. Factors taken into account in this study included GDP, perception of corruption, social support, life expectancy, freedom to make life choices and generosity.
So who has the perfect balance of health and happiness?
Certainly not Italy, which is only the 48th happiest country in the world, despite being the healthiest. The overall winner would have to be Iceland – third happiest and second healthiest. Fermented shark, anyone?