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5+ reasons that make Spain one of the healthiest country in the world
30 June 2020 @ 23:32

The "Bloomberg Global Health Index" values ​​Spain as the healthiest country among 169 nations. 92.75 out of 100: this is the score that Spain has obtained. But do Spaniards and expats who live here really have this impression? Let's look at 5 specific reason why Spain can fill this prestigious positition on this list.

Bloomberg healthiest countries list 2020

1. Public Health Service

It is one of the aspects best valued by the authors of the list - especially since primary care is mainly public and is made up of multidisciplinary teams.

But does the health system really have such an impact on health? Most of our lives are spent outside the health system, so the impact on health is very limited - reliable sources put the inlfuence between 10-25% percent. The rest has to do with social circumstances.

The World Health Organization (WHO) ranks Spain's public health care the 7th best in the World that offers universal coverage and quality care. 

2. Life expectancy in Spain

Life expectancy is the highest here in Europe according to the Bloomberg report. Although the experts in social health work adds a nuance: it is actually only women, where it is the highest, at 86.1 years, but men are at the 8th place, with 80.6 years of life expectancy. Swiss males live the longest in Europe (an average of 81.6 years).

The report also indicates that by 2040 Spain could be the country with the highest life expectancy in the world. At least this is what the trend shows.

But what about quality of life? Is Spain also first on the list? Apparently not - although it is a difficult thing to measure and can be looked at from many different angles - according data based on Eurostat: the expectation of healthy life years for Spanish women is 66.5 years, which places them in tenth place among the countries of the European Union. And in men it is 65.9 years old, occupying the eighth place. One thing is life expectancy and another quality of life. Ultimately we all want to enjoy a long AND healthy life.

3. The famously good Mediterranean Diet

The studies that support the benefits of the Mediterranean diet for health are numerous, and the fact that it is the basis of the country's diet adds points for Spain. But do we really follow it or are fewer and fewer Spaniards betting on it?

According to extensive research that analyzed global trends in adherence to the Mediterranean Diet since the early 1960s, Spain is the 7th on the top list of countries who kept to the parameters of the Mediterranean diet. Maintaining the charactersctics of the Mediterranean Diet is crucial for public health. Among other benefits the foods in a typical Med diet - nuts, fish, legumes, vegetables, healthy fats, plant oils and fresh fruits - help lower inflammation in your body, reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes and improve blood vessel function which lowers possiblility for cardiovascular illnesses.

4. Olive oil and nuts

Olive oil is, without a doubt, one of our hallmarks of Spain when it comes to cooking. The authors of the Bloomberg report have taken this into account, and have looked at the results of the Predimed Study, which highlights the cardioprotective effect of following a Mediterranean diet with the special presence of extra virgin olive oil and nuts. But how much should we take to notice its healthy effects?

The Spanish Community Nutrition Society (SENC), in its new pyramid, recommends taking extra virgin olive oil daily. 2 or 3 tablespoons are enough.
The nuts must be taken several times a week, minimum 3. The recommended portion is one handful (about 25-30 grams). Choose them plain, or roasted and without salt.

5. Spanish lifestyle habits are quite healthy

Habits also greatly influence the quality of life. For this reason, the authors of the report take into account the sedentary lifestyle (closely linked to the extra kilos) or the number of people who smoke in the countries analyzed. The sunny cliamte of the Southern part of the country, especially Andalusia's Costa del Sol - some locations boasting 300+ days of sun- offers an opportunity for outdoorsy, active lifestyle. 

How is Spain doing regading healthy lifestyle choices?

Regarding obesity, figures show (17%, according to data endorsed by the WHO) are far from countries such as Egypt (with 42.5%) or the United Kingdom (with 29.7%). But despite this it is also true that the number of people with this disorder has doubled in the last 30 years in Spain.

According to the data from the National Health Survey, the prevalence of overweight condition, sedentary lifestyle and a high level of exposure to screens leads us to consider strategies that involve an increase in physical activity by more than 150 minutes a week from childhood, and especially in the case of girls from the age of 14.

As for smoking, it is surprising that it doesn't put Spain lower on the list of healthiest countries because the figures are among the highest in Europe.

Thanks to the reduction in the prevalence of tobacco consumption in recent years in Spain, there had been a significantly lower number of cardiovascular problems and cancers, which surely has had a considerable impact on reaching the first place on the Bloomberg scale. This trend is reversing however, which should be of great concern to Spain, as the latest data tells us of an increase in the number of smokers. It has gone back 12 years in the fight against tobacco.

5+1 Environmental factors that add points

In order to prepare the index, parameters of what is commonly called “First World” have not only been taken into account. Other factors, such as access to drinking water, also have an impact on the final ranking. And at this point it is clear that certain countries, such as Spain, have a clear advantage over others more disadvantaged. 

In Short Summary

Using these factors, each country is given a rating out of a top score of 100. According to the 2020 ranking, Spain is considered to have the healthiest people in the world with a score of 92.75. Spain boasts a life expectancy of 83.5 years, which is expected to rise to 85.8 by 2040 and be the highest in the world.

Although Spain is known for smoking, drinking a lot of wine, and staying up late, their everyday diet and lifestyle choices sets them above the rest. Spain has the highest percentage of walkers in Europe, with 37% of them walking to work instead of driving (in comparison, only 6% of Americans walk to work). Additionally, Spain’s universal healthcare program is very successful, and they have managed to lower their rate of preventable deaths to 45.4 preventable deaths per 100,000 inhabitants.

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