Why a recent study ranked SA as one of the world's unhealthiest countries

09 February 2021 - 13:48
SA ranked last on a list of 42 of the world's healthiest and unhealthiest countries compiled by Australian company Compare the Market. Stock photo.
SA ranked last on a list of 42 of the world's healthiest and unhealthiest countries compiled by Australian company Compare the Market. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/Gregory Alekhine

We normally love it when SA makes it onto an international list of some sort. Unfortunately, the most recent list Mzansi has made it onto is a selection of 42 of the world's healthiest and unhealthiest countries — and we rank last.

According to research compiled by Compare the Market, an Australian company that ranks insurance, energy and finance brands, SA nabbed the 42nd, or last, spot on a list of healthiest countries to live, mostly as a result of our low life expectancy.

The company used available data for countries that form part of the OECD, an international organisation that works to stimulate economic progress and world trade, as well as a few additional countries for which they found available data from the OECD and the World Health Organisation. The research took into account a variety of factors that have a bearing on the health of a country’s population.

According to the research, SA’s life expectancy at birth is 63.9 years — the lowest out of the 42 countries that were compared. Furthermore, 28.3% of SA’s adult population is obese and 38.2% of adults are not sufficiently physically active.

Our probability of premature death — or the probability of dying between the ages of 30 and 70 — is 26.2% and the rate of vaccination of children that receive the rubella vaccine and final dose of measles vaccine is 81%.

Only four in five South Africans (80.68% of our population) has access to at least basic drinking water services, meaning 19.32% of South Africans do not have access to basic drinking water.

Our alcohol consumption, while not the highest in the world, is relatively high at 7.3 litres of pure alcohol sold every year per person aged 15 and older. Indonesia is the country with the lowest figure in this category at 0.1 litres, while Latvia claimed the top spot at 12.6 litres.  

In terms of smoking, 31.4% of the population aged 15 and older currently uses tobacco products, compared with Columbia’s low percentage of 7.9% and Chile’s high percentage of 44.7%

The countries that made it onto the top five list of healthiest countries are Japan, South Korea, Finland, Norway and Sweden.

Along with SA, those nations that ranked as the five unhealthiest include Brazil, Indonesia, Latvia and Lithuania.

While these findings don’t bode particularly well, it is important to remember that this doesn’t mean SA is the unhealthiest country to live in — only the unhealthiest as ranked among the 42 countries that were profiled. Remember, there are 195 countries in the world.

For more details of the research findings, visit Comparethemarket.com.au