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The 8 healthiest countries in the world

written by Bex Shapiro March 24, 2017
Italy

Bloomberg just released its Global Health Index for 2017 and the results certainly provide some food for thought. 

The survey ranked 163 countries, assessing variables like life expectancy, the availability of clean water, and causes of death. Among the bunch of interesting things uncovered was the fact Chile is the healthiest country in Latin America, and that Israel’s ranking makes it the highest in the Middle East.

But what about the ones that came out on top? Well, because we care about you, your health and your travels, we’ve collated a list of the 8 official healthiest countries in the world below. Not just this, but there’s some information about why their way of life is so wholesome, in addition to suggestions for how best to emulate it when visiting. Enjoy.

8. Sweden

Sarek national park SwedenNot content with being one of the most livable countries in the world, Sweden is also full of tall, happy, and healthy people. And the Swedish lifestyle is an enviable one – full of constant cycling and consuming a ton of fatty fish, rye bread, and root vegetables. All in all, this wholesomeness is great, but it’s also conducive to some pretty sweet activities to partake in: hiking, camping, fishing, and even foraging for berries and mushrooms are all common Swedish past-times.

Our recommendation: Get a taste of Scandinavian greatness on this 15-day trip through the region.

7. Japan

Sushi JapanIt’s probably not new news that raw fish is good for you, but it’s heartening to know that a sushi-packed visit to Japan is almost an obligation for health reasons. And it’s not just eating habits that make the Japanese a healthy bunch – it’s also their (green) tea drinking habits, their (public) bathing habits, and maybe even the fact they have a genuine national holiday dedicated to mountains. They’re one health-conscious nation, and that’s just one of a 100 reasons why you might want to visit this fascinating, diverse country. (Bonus: check out this guide to our favorite foodie city in Japan, Osaka.)

Our recommendations: Dine like the Japanese on a 12-day food tour there, or cycle through the beautiful country on this 14-day Cycle Japan tour.

6. Spain

Spain BarcelonaThe Mediterranean diet strikes again. Spaniards are one of the healthiest people around, and we’re thinking it might have something to do with the sun and siesta-filled lifestyle as much as the fresh food. Or even the flamenco dancing? Whatever the reason, people in Spain are doing it right. And if you want to live like them, then we fully encourage you to fill up on tapas and stroll a while round beautiful cities like Barcelona, Madrid and Seville.

Our recommendations: Dine like a Spaniard on this 8-day trip through Spain (and Portugal), or cycle through Andalucia on this 9-day Spanish adventure.

5. Australia

Australia coffee flat whiteSo, it turns out the laid-back surfing lifestyle is not just fun, but healthy too. Aussies are doing pretty well for themselves, as their position on the survey demonstrates. Their life expectancy is one of the highest in the world, and not only is that thanks to their healthcare system, but an outdoorsy lifestyle that’s gotta be a direct result of the beautiful country. The killer brunch and coffee scene is also an added bonus for visiting foodies…

Our recommendation: Get active on this 5-day camping trip camping in the Australian Outback.

4. Singapore

Singapore sunriseYep, there’s so much more to Singapore than rushed layovers and shopping in glitzy malls. The Southeast Asian powerhouse has a tropical climate, incredibly diverse food scene, and some of the world’s healthiest people. Visit the gorgeous Botanical Gardens in the early morning and you’ll figure out why – people of all ages will be busy doing tai chi, jogging, and walking round. So, pig out on the fine cuisine then work it all off how the locals do. Now that’s a healthy AND authentic Singaporean experience.

Our recommendation: This 15-day Asia adventure ends in Singapore, where you can then wander the streets of Chinatown and Little India for some old-school eats.

3. Switzerland

Breakfast in Switzerland, ValaisThe Swiss are clearly doing something right. Their people are often voted the happiest in the world, their economy is one of the strongest in the world, and their country is also one of the healthiest in the world. Maybe it’s all that fresh mountain air… or maybe it’s their exceptional health care system, who knows? What we do know, however, is that exploring the stunning Swiss Alps, or visiting cities like Zurich or Geneva (as clean as they are beautiful) will make you feel happy, healthy, and full of appreciation for the Swiss way of life.

Our recommendation: Hike through the beautiful Swiss mountains on this 8-day trip through Switzerland and the Italian Lakes.

2. Iceland

Iceland came number two in the survey, and we’re not surprised. Why? Well, two reasons: fresh fish is a massive delicacy there, and the landscapes are so awe-inspiring that why wouldn’t locals want to spend all their free time enjoying them? Seriously. The Icelandic people are really into both hiking and fishing, and it’s paying dividends health-wise. Book a trip there and you’ll find yourself indulging in these habits and more. Guilt-free eating and exploring – what could be better?

Our recommendation: Feel as healthy as an Icelandic local by hiking Europe’s largest glacier on this 8-day Iceland Discovery trip.

1. Italy

Italy comes out on top – for having both the world’s healthiest people and, in our opinion, having some of the most beautiful scenery on earth. But if you thought Italians simply feast on carbs and wine then you might want to think again. As the survey revealed, that good old Mediterranean diet is a winner for all the fresh food it involves: fruit and veg, lean meat, fish, and a generous serving of extra virgin olive oil. Yep, locals have good health and a life expectancy well into their 80s; what better incentive do you need than to live (and eat) like one when traveling there?

Our recommendations: Eat like a (healthy) Italian on this 7-day food tour through southern Italy, or cycle through Tuscany on this scenic 8-day tour.

Tempted by any one of the amazing trips just mentioned? Check out Intrepid’s range of small group tours.

Image Credits (top to bottom): All c/o Intrepid Travel except Sweden c/o iStock.

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13 comments

Jahangir December 5, 2018 - 8:52 am

A place called Uzbekistan should come in first

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Elizabeth August 8, 2018 - 3:19 am

Good point, Britt. It’s quite hard to quantify the psychological and emotional aspects of a healthy lifestyle as determined by community and social support networks. It is extremely important, and some studies are beginning to show that having a strong social support is as vital to a healthy lifestyle as diet and physical activity. Obviously, the Scandinavian countries have a leg-up on this, Denmark often cited as being one of the “happiest” places.

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Liverpool Natural Health July 25, 2018 - 9:42 pm

Australia is a huge country. Glad to know it is on the top 8. Good for tourism to be included. Our health should always priority, investing to be healthy has a huge impact to our overall health and to our country.

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Mari May 24, 2018 - 1:29 am

Australians aren’t as healthy as they used to be. We are now an obese nation. Over 75% of us are overweight according to our current affairs and news shows. Too much American style take away and packaged food as well as soft drinks are cited as main causes. There is a massive divide between the healthy and the overweight with fewer people in between.

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Mimi January 9, 2018 - 12:53 pm

Went to 4 counties out of 8 on this list woohoo. But not sure why Italy is number 1, maybe number should be Switzerland.

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Grete McKissack November 18, 2017 - 1:45 am

Enjoy traveling SOLO. Have been alone most of my Life means I’m very independent.
Am planing and traveling as much as I can. CRUISING is my Speciality. ⚓️ ⚓️ ⚓️

Have to learn to pack much less.

HAPPY TRAVEL!!” ⚓️⚓️⚓️ ✈️✈️✈️

P.S. : Oh, and I speak: GERMAN, FRENCH & ENGLISH of course which is the most POPULAR LANGUAGE❗️

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Anonymous April 14, 2018 - 2:02 pm

Nah, the most popular language is Mandarin:)

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Stephen Kelly October 16, 2017 - 11:56 pm

Bulgaria has the best and healthiest yogurt in he world, air quality if possibly the best you can get, outside if the towns, and it is a pretty country, Vratsa being my personal favorite

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Ian October 3, 2017 - 9:36 am

How can Australia be in the top?
Health problems are skyrocketing, “health” companies are huge, alot of people are overweight.
Where does this site get their facts?
Also, New Zealand next door has a higher quality of food due to the soil, but it doesn’t get a mention?
Perhaps this excludes some countries, that would make sense then

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Lorna June 28, 2017 - 3:24 pm

Realistically, one should compare the states in the US with other countries. The size, variety of lifestyle, eating habits, and exercise vary widely from state to state as they do from country to country. There really is no way to compare the entire United States of America with any other country on any issue.

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Barbara Tyner February 16, 2018 - 6:31 am

that’s a really good point!!!!

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Jim L April 21, 2017 - 1:57 am

Lovely places. Major point I take is that living well is comprised of good health, good food, and lots of physical activity. All the things many many places in the US are currently struggling to find. When you put corporate profits, exclusion, division and politics above living gently with your friends and neighbors, you suffer. US life expectancy has turned DOWN. We are missing some important things while we walk less and eat more.

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Britt April 6, 2017 - 11:42 pm

While diet and activity are important (and possibly the most appealing aspects of these countries to tourists), I think it is valuable to add that those are not the only aspects of lifestyle that lead to a long and healthy life. I would love to see more about the way these cities treat community, and how people find purpose on a day to day basis. What is their social structure? Are households multigenerational? Do people take care of each other in sickness and old age? I’m going to check out the original publication for more details.

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