Life expectancy in the US has dropped due in part to an increase in “deaths of despair."
Since 1871, the United States has held the distinction of being the world’s largest economy – an economic superpower comprising nearly a quarter of the global economy thanks to advanced infrastructure, technology, and an embarrassment of natural resources.
Unfortunately, all of that wealth doesn't translate to good health for its citizens – which is in fact slipping, according to the 2019 edition of the Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index.The Index grades 169 economies on metrics looking at overall health, like life expectancy, while subtracting points for risks like tobacco use and obesity. It also considers environmental factors like clean water access and sanitation.
So who gets the crown this year? Spain, the world's 14th largest economy. Here's how the list plays out:
Spain ranked well for a number of reasons, one important factor being that it has the highest life expectancy at birth among European Union nations. In that respect, it lags behind only only Japan and Switzerland globally. By 2040, Spain is expected to have the highest lifespan (86 years0, trailed by Japan, Singapore and Switzerland, according to the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
The country has also seen a decline in cardiovascular diseases and deaths from cancer over the last decade. "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.
And as Bloomberg points out, eating habits can not be overlooked. The nutritional style of the top two countries of Spain and Italy is, by definition, the Mediterranean diet, which has been found over and over to be one of (if not the most) healthiest ways to eat.
As for the good ol' United State of America? The wealthiest country in the world?
The U.S. came in at #35.
Life expectancy in The States has been dropping due to "deaths of despair." As CBS News explains, "Rising drug and alcohol overdoses, suicides, and disease from chronic alcoholism -- labeled "deaths of despair" by one expert -- are cutting the lives of white Americans short by nearly a half a year on average."
We came in five spots below Cuba, a country that doesn't enjoy the World Bank classification of "high income" ... but does enjoy an emphasis on preventative care "over the U.S. focus on diagnosing and treating illness," notes Bloomberg.
The U.S. also has an enormous obesity problem, with 40 percent of American adults classified as obese. According to the CDC, "obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer that are some of the leading causes of preventable, premature death."
Regular readers will notice that we always promote preventative care here on TreeHugger, because things like eating well and exercising are so much more sustainable than the costly and resource-intensive requirements of treating illness and disease. And it looks like the world's healthiest countries can back that up.
To read more about the findings, visit Bloomberg. In the meantime, I'll be in the kitchen making some paella.