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New Map: The Most Unhealthy Countries in the World

Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes are now the primary cause of premature deaths worldwide, killing over 36 million people each year. A large percentage of these conditions are self-inflicted, caused by unhealthy lifestyle choices such as drinking, smoking and an unbalanced diet.

A recent report by the World Health Organization revealed that measures to control the spread of NCDs has been inadequate, leading to the United Nations health agency to put pressure on governments around the world to do more to tackle the global health crisis.

The map below exposes the most unhealthy countries in the world, and highlights those whose residents need to change their lifestyle in order to lower their risk of developing life-threatening illnesses.

Data for this research was obtained from the World Health Organization, the CIA World Factbook and the World Lung Association. Each country’s performance was ranked on three factors:

  1. Alcohol consumption per person, per year
  2. Tobacco consumption per person, per year
  3. Obesity prevalence within the population

The ranks for each country were then averaged to determine which population poses the biggest threat to their health through harmful behaviours.

Key Findings

The Czech Republic was exposed as the most unhealthy country in the world. The nation’s citizens emerged as some of the heaviest drinkers, each consuming a massive 13.7 litres of pure alcohol every year, the equivalent in volume to 550 25ml shots. The country also ranked 11th highest for the number of cigarettes smoked each year, despite having some of the strictest laws on tobacco purchase and consumption in the EU.

Eastern Europe emerged as the most unhealthy region in the world, with 9 of the 10 top spots on the list occupied by countries in the territory such as Slovakia, Croatia and Poland. Russia ranked in second place while Slovenia came in at a close third, with its residents being the 6th biggest consumers of tobacco products on the planet, smoking a staggering 2,637 cigarettes each year.

The United States was the only non-European country to rank in the top 10 due to it having one of the highest rates of obesity in the world, where 35% of the adult population is classified as being dangerously overweight. Its comparatively low tobacco and alcohol consumption however, prevented the nation from ranking higher in the list.

Interestingly Oceania emerged as the world’s fattest region, with the continent’s small Pacific islands being home to some of the most obese populations on the planet. Samoa ranked first for obesity prevalence with a staggering 41.6% of the nation’s population having a BMI over 30. Tonga, Kiribati, Tuvalu and Fiji also featured in the top 10 for obesity, owing to the islanders appetite for high-fat, energy-dense foods imported from Western societies.

Residents of Afghanistan were named the healthiest, having the second lowest rate of obesity in the world with only 2.7% of the population having a BMI over 30. The country also ranked in the bottom 20 for the number of cigarettes smoked per year (just 83) and drunk one of the smallest amounts of alcohol in the world, owing to the country’s ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol. African nations also fared well, with countries such as Malawi, Niger and Ethiopia among the 10 least unhealthy populations in the world.