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Spain is the world’s healthiest nation, according to Bloomberg index

Country takes the crown from Italy, while Japan ranks fourth, Britain comes in 19th, and the US takes 35th place, five spots below Cuba

A Spanish classic: bread, tomato, jamón and olive oil.
A Spanish classic: bread, tomato, jamón and olive oil. Getty Images

Spain is the healthiest country in the world, according to a study of 169 nations by Bloomberg.

After climbing six rungs from 2017 and pushing Italy from first spot, Spain now ranks at the top of the Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index, which considers several factors that contribute to overall health, such as life expectancy at birth, sanitation and health services.

A Mediterranean diet, supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts, had a lower rate of major cardiovascular events than those assigned to a reduced-fat diet

University of Navarre Medical School

Four other European countries made it into the top 10: Iceland (third), Switzerland (fifth), Sweden (sixth) and Norway (ninth). France was 12th, Britain 19th, Portugal 22nd, Germany 23rd and Belgium 28th. Japan, which ranks fourth globally, is the healthiest nation in Asia.

The index classifies nations according to variables such as life expectancy, tobacco use and obesity. Environmental factors like access to clean water and sanitation are also taken into account.

Spain has the highest life expectancy at birth among European Union nations, and trails only Japan and Switzerland globally, United Nations data show. Spain by 2040 is forecast to have the longest lifespan, at almost 86 years, followed by Japan, Singapore and Switzerland, according to the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

The Bloomberg index underscores the impact of the Spanish public health system and Spanish eating habits.

Spain has the highest life expectancy at birth among European Union nations

Primary care is essentially provided by public providers, specialized family doctors and staff nurses, who provide preventive services to children, women and elderly patients, and acute and chronic care,” according to the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies 2018 review of Spain, noting a decline the past decade in cardiovascular diseases and deaths from cancer.

Researchers say eating habits may provide clues to health levels enjoyed by Spain and Italy, as a “Mediterranean diet, supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts, had a lower rate of major cardiovascular events than those assigned to a reduced-fat diet,” according to a study led by the University of Navarre Medical School.

Meanwhile in North America, Canada’s 16th-place ranking far surpassed the US and Mexico, which both dropped slightly to 35th and 53rd position respectively.

Cuba placed five spots above the US, making it the only nation not classified as “high income” by the World Bank to be ranked that high. Sub-Saharan economies accounted for 27 of the 30 unhealthiest nations in the ranking. Haiti, Afghanistan and Yemen were the others.

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