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When it comes to better health, we should all be looking east. Far east, to be precise.
Singapore, a bustling yet small island nation in Southeast Asia that boasts breathtaking architecture and a flourishing manufacturing industry, has been named the world's healthiest country in a ranking by Bloomberg that culls data from the United Nations, the World Bank and the World Health Organization. Singapore excelled in factors such as low tobacco use, high life expectancy, low infant mortality and low percentage of underweight children.
Rounding out the top 10 were Italy, Australia, Switzerland, Japan, Israel, Spain, The Netherlands, Sweden and Germany. Both the U.S. and the U.K. failed to grace the top 20, coming in at No. 21 and No. 33, respectively. No countries from North or South America made the top 20, either.
These rankings reflect previous findings from the World Health Organization highlighting countries with the longest life expectancy, where Singapore also ranked high (though not quite No. 1), and Israel came in at No. 4. While it's true that life expectancy is up pretty much everywhere in the world, the statistics are especially high in Israel, where male babies born in 2012 can expect to live an average of 80.2 years. WHO's life expectancy report was a large part of the calculation for Bloomberg's most recent rankings.
Arguably the least surprising inhabitants of the Top 10 in Bloomberg's rankings were countries from the Mediterranean region, including Spain, Israel and Italy. Health experts, doctors and residents of the region have touted the vast benefits of the Mediterranean diet, which includes foods rich in fiber and low in fat and carbohydrates like olive oil, fruits, vegetables, legumes and fish. Research has pointed to lowered risks of breast cancer and cognitive decline in people who adopt a Mediterranean diet.
Bloomberg included only countries with a population of 1 million or more in its rankings and calculated each country's health score and health risk score, then subtracted the health risk score from the health score to determine its rank in the list. In addition to life expectancy, health score factors included infant mortality, death rates per age group, and causes of death; health-risk score factors included population of smokers, drinkers and people who are overweight; the country's indoor and outdoor pollution and water safety levels; and immunization coverage