The 7 Healthiest Cities In The World

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Last week, we wrote about the best places in the world to retire, based upon International Living’s recently released 2012 Retirement Index. The Index takes into account a variety of variables, and is obviously skewed towards the wants and needs of a mature audience.

But it raised the question here about the healthiest places to visit abroad, particularly if you intend stay for a while. So, based upon factors such as recreation opportunities, life expectancies and the quality of healthcare systems, here is one man’s list of the seven healthiest cities in the world, in no particular order:

  • Vienna, Austria. I say Vienna, and you probably think of heavy meals and elegant formal occasions. But the outdoor life in Vienna makes it one of the healthiest places on Earth. The clean mountain air draws the Viennese out for exercise, and it isn’t just skiing. The Vienna City Marathon each Spring is a world class event – more than 33,000 runners are expected to take part next month. Plus, the healthcare system is superb – Austria has a great doctor-to-citizen ratio. And people who live in Austria are covered under government insurance as soon as they secure employment or enroll in a university.
  • Reykjavik, Iceland. That crisp Arctic air really is cleaner, but not just because of the temperature. Helsinki is regarded as one of the world’s least polluted cities. And the outdoor culture – swimming and hiking are very popular – contribute to the overall health of the populace. You say swimming in the cold air sounds crazy? Don’t worry – the geothermal heat makes those “swimming holes” feel just fine, and there are open air heated swimming pools all over the country. 
  • Sydney, Australia. Australia has the world’s best healthcare system – a significant reason why the average life expectancy is just under 82 years. Australian insurance companies are required by law to charge policyholders equal premiums regardless of their healthcare past. Australia’s air is also among cleanest the in the world – all the more reason to get out and enjoy the five national parks in and around Sydney.
  •  Zurich, Switzerland. With a number of these cities, the civic mindset is a significant factor in the overall “healthiness” of the place. And in Zurich, the sports-minded Swiss spend a lot of time outdoors enjoying an active lifestyle. There are tons of sports facilities, and the fact that several international sports organizations are located here doesn’t hurt that mindset, either. Perhaps more importantly, Switzerland spends more than eleven percent of GDP on providing universal healthcare coverage for citizens.
  • Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Certainly, there are opportunities to be, umm, unhealthy in Amsterdam. But if you’re willing to spend your time doing things other than inhaling, you’ll likely be cycling. Everybody in Amsterdam bikes (well, maybe not everybody, but about 300,000 citizens take part).
  • Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Five years ago, Forbes magazine declared Calgary the cleanest city in the world. Plus the skiing around Calgary is some of the best in the world. Those factors, coupled with Canada’s universal healthcare system, make it a very healthy destination, whether for a ski vacation or a more permanent move.
  • Helsinki, Finland. A fairly low number of cars, low pollution rates, low infant mortality rates and a life expectancy of just under 80 years.
  • Auckland, New Zealand. Auckland has one of the highest qualities of life of any city in the world, and the health of its citizens is a significant factor in those rankings. New Zealand’s life expectancy is 80 years and the country spends approximately nine percent of GDP on healthcare for its New Zealanders. Plus, Auckland gets close to 2000 hours a year of sunshine – which is about 33 percent more than London.

Photo by Mal B.

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