Belgium in top 10 healthiest countries in Europe
Belgium has been named as the ninth healthiest country in Europe, according to new research that studied several factors including the percentage of smokers, the obesity rate, and the number of doctors in different countries.
The research, based on figures from the Worldometer real-time statistics website and published by tobacco company Snuffstore, gave each country a score from one to ten based on seven health parameters to provide a general 'health index' score: the higher the score, the healthier the country.
"Belgium is the ninth healthiest country in Europe. This is due to its low smoking rates, high life expectancy, and lower-than-average depression reports," the research stated. "It also has a great healthcare system with six doctors for every 1.000 people."
The country received a total 'health index' score of 43.19 (out of a total of 70), based on seven indicators: percentage of the population that smokes, obesity rate, life expectancy, litres of alcohol drunk per year per person, percentage of the population reporting chronic depression, number of doctors per 1.000 people, and the percentage of the population that is "insufficiently physically active" when compared to the World Health Organisation's (WHO) recommended level of activity.
According to the study, the healthiest country in Europe is Sweden (with a health index of 48.53), followed by Finland (health index 47.37) in second place and Moldova (45.40) rounding out the top three. Fourth, fifth and sixth place went to Belarus (45.11), Norway (44.35) and Iceland (44.29), respectively.
Explaining the highly-ranked Scandinavian countries, the study points to the generally low(er) levels of smokers, alcohol consumption and obesity rates compared to the rest of Europe, as well as a higher level of physical activity.
In seventh and eighth place, Switzerland (43.77) and France (43.63) both finished higher than Belgium due to the Swiss' lower rate of obesity, chronic depression and a higher life expectancy. France has large number of doctors per capita and comparatively lower number of smokers.
At the bottom of the list is the United Kingdom (42.96). Figures show that the smoking rates in the UK are lower than in much of Europe, but the obesity rate is much higher, which could be due to the higher percentage of the population who are insufficiently active.
"The focus on health and lifestyle has been at the forefront of conversation for a while now, as much of the continent has seen obesity rates rising as people become less active and taking up unhealthy habits," the researchers said. "It is clear to see that in healthier nations, there is more activity, less smoking and drinking and as a result, in most cases, lower levels of depression."
While Europe overall has some clear health indicators that give insight into the consistent work that governments are doing to create healthier nations, they stressed that there is still plenty of action that people can take to increase their personal health and live longer and better lives.
© BELGA PHOTO ANTHONY DEHEZ