The Healthiest Country In The World Isn't the One You'd Expect

vernazza italy
Shutterstock/Martin M303

If you were to guess which country boasts the healthiest people, you might pick one of the standby Scandinavian nations like Norway or Sweden, which are known for their premier nationalized healthcare systems and high quality of life index. Or maybe South Korea or Japan, since they're frequently in the news for being home to the world's oldest living humans

However, according to recently published health index, it's Italy that holds the distinction of having the healthiest and longest living populace on the globe. 

The news comes from the recently published Bloomberg Global Health Index, which scored 163 world countries on a number of variables like life expectancy, causes of death health risks like high blood pressure and smoking, and environmental factors (i.e., access to clean water). According to the report, Italians born today can be expected to live into their 80s, are in much better shape than Americans, Canadians, or Brits, and suffer from things like high blood pressure and high cholesterol at much lower rates than their peers. Bloomberg chalks this up to its culinary culture, which revolves around a diet rich in olive oil and fresh produce.

In many ways, the Mediterranean country is a surprise at the top of the list, since its economy has been in the pits for decades, and its unemployment rate is through the roof (the unemployment rate among young people reached nearly 40% late last year). However, as the report notes, beyond its healthy diet, the country also boasts an "excess of doctors." 

bloomberg global health index

Iceland, Switzerland, Singapore, and Australia round out the top five slots, while Slovakia, Barbados, Oman, Panama, and Albania found themselves among the least healthy in the top 50. The US didn't even crack the top 25, coming in at 34th healthiest country on the planet, between Costa Rica and Croatia.

Only subscribers to Bloomberg Professional Service can access the full list in detail, but you can get a rough picture of how everything shakes out right here.

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Joe McGauley is a senior writer for Thrillist. His version of "Italian" food is in no way healthy.