Visualizing the State of Health Around the World

No two countries are the same when it comes to healthcare spending and outcomes. Our newest visualizations illustrate three key measures of health in each country: healthy life expectancy at birth, current health expenditure (CHE) per capita, and current health expenditure (CHE) as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP). All monetary values are expressed in USD.

In creating these visualizations, we analyzed data from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Health Expenditure Database and the World Health Statistics report for Healthy Life Expectancy. Here’s what we found region by region.

The visualizations show all the countries that have data available for healthy life expectancy and current health expenditures. The x-axis shows the healthy life expectancy at birth, while the y-axis shows CHE per capita. Each individual country is represented as a flag in a circle, and the shade of the outline of each circle indicates health expenditures as a percentage of GDP (with darker shades of pink representing higher CHE as a percentage of GDP).

Top 3 Countries by Healthy Life Expectancy in the Americas

1. Canada - 73.2 years
2. Costa Rica - 70.9 years
3. Cuba - 69.9 years

In the Americas, the U.S. has the highest health expenditures when measured per capita ($9,870) and by GDP (17.1%). The Americas also have the greatest variation in CHE per capita, ranging from $38 in Haiti to $9,870 in the U.S. With rising premiums and more than 27 million Americans living without health insurance, concerns about healthcare are growing stronger. As a result, some educational institutions, policymakers, and media outlets are taking a closer look at the state of healthcare in other countries to see how the U.S. measures up.

Top 3 European Countries by Healthy Life Expectancy

1. Spain - 73.8 years
2. Switzerland - 73.5 years
3. France - 73.4 years

In general, countries in Western Europe have higher healthy life expectancies and higher healthcare expenditures per capita than countries in Eastern Europe. According to the World Health Organization data, Switzerland has the highest healthcare expenditures in Europe, at $9,836 CHE per capita and 12.3% CHE as a percentage of GDP. Europe is also the only continent in which healthy life expectancy in each country is age 60 or older. While most countries have similar statistics for CHE per capita and CHE as a percentage of GDP, a few countries buck this trend. For example, Luxembourg has a high CHE per capita at $6,271, but the CHE as a percentage of GDP is only 6.2%. Conversely, Moldova has a low CHE per capita at $171, but a high CHE as a percentage of GDP at 9%.

Top 3 Asian Countries by Healthy Life Expectancy

1. Singapore - 76.2 years
2. Japan - 74.8 years
3. Republic of Korea - 73 years

Highly industrialized east Asian countries like Japan and South Korea have high healthy life expectancies and high healthcare expenditures per capita and by GDP. By contrast, countries in south Asia and central Asia tend to have lower life expectancies and lower health expenditures per capita. Countries in the Middle East, like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, have high health expenditures when measured per capita, but lower when measured by GDP.

Top 3 African Countries by Healthy Life Expectancy

1. Tunisia - 66.3 years
2. Mauritius - 65.8 years
3. Seychelles - 65.7 years

Most African countries have a life expectancy under the age of 60. Factors such as the prevalence of the AIDS epidemic negatively affects life expectancy rates in east and sub-Saharan Africa. The African countries with the highest life expectancy tend to be located in the north or off the coast.

Top 3 Australian/Oceania Countries by Healthy Life Expectancy

1. Australia - 73 years
2. New Zealand - 72.8 years
3. Samoa - 66 years

Australia spends about as much on CHE per capita than all other countries in the region combined. Most countries in Oceania spend less than $400 on CHE per capita and have a CHE as a percentage of GDP under 6%. Papua New Guinea only spends $55 on CHE per capita, less than 3% by GDP.

What surprised you the most about how healthcare expenditures and healthy life expectancy vary around the world? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

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