Which countries are the best places to age well?

Across the world, because of demographic change, people are living longer, but not necessarily better lives. As countries across the world grapple with the impacts of ageing societies, the International Longevity...

Centre UK (ILC) has launched its Healthy Ageing and Prevention Index which ranks 121 countries across six key metrics: life span, health span, work span, income, environmental performance, and happiness.

The Index gives a bird’s eye view of how countries across the world are futureproofing for longer lives and has been supported by the Hallmark Foundation. The Index pulls data from the World Health Organisation, the International Labour Organisation, the World Bank, the Yale Environmental Performance Index and the United Nations. It finds that:

  • The countries ranked in the Index’s top ten are Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Singapore, Australia, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Denmark and Ireland.
  • Of the top 20, only a third are non-European. These include Singapore (ranked 5th), Australia (ranked 6th), Canada and New Zealand (jointly ranked 11th), Israel (ranked 13th), and Japan (ranked 17th)

There are significant health and wealth inequalities between countries at the top and bottom of the Index:

  • Only 1.1% of the world’s population rank in the top ten and just over a quarter rank in the top 50. This demonstrates significant inequality, whereby a relatively small proportion of the global population benefits from better health, wealth and societal conditions.
  • There is a 24-year gap in life span (life expectancy) between the top 10 and bottom 10 countries.
  • There is a 21-year gap in health span (healthy life expectancy) between the top and bottom 10 countries.

Further analysis by ILC, the leading think tank on longevity, finds that countries that are healthier also have higher per capita incomes and those with higher environmental performance scores are also happier.

Alongside the Index, ILC has brought together a coalition that calls for greater investment in preventative health interventions, such as vaccinations, early detection and management of disease to drive better outcomes in health, and by extension economic and environmental performance.

The purpose of the Index is to hold governments to account on healthy ageing and their level of investment in prevention, as well as to identify areas for improvement and inform policy:

  • The US, China, and India have the largest number of older adults across their populations and could significantly benefit from investing in healthy ageing and disease prevention but are ranked 31st, 50th, 102nd respectively.
  • If the UK’s target of five extra healthy years by 2035 was met in 2019, it would be the best performing country jumping 27 places from its current 28th position on the health span metric, ahead of Japan, the healthiest country on the Index. But unless the UK ups its current spend on prevention from 4.8% of the overall health budget to 6% this is an ambition that feels increasing unlikely as the target date approaches.

The Index will be launched as an interactive online tool alongside the World Health Assembly on 23 May 2023.

Arunima Himawan, Senior Health Research Lead at ILC argues:

“The Index’s biggest strength is that it can, in a very simple and compelling way, tell a story. It shows us that investing in healthy ageing, and preventative health in particular, is not only an investment in health systems but has ripple effects across the economy, environment and wellbeing too.”

“For too long, governments have failed to invest adequately in preventative efforts and if we don’t shift course, we will pay the price. We know that a focus on prevention rather than cure is cheaper and better for the individual and society. We know what works. Now we need to see action.”

Stephen Burke, CEO of Hallmark Foundation which is co-funding the index, said:

“Countries have a lot to learn from each other about how their populations can age well and live longer and better lives. The index will prompt governments and policymakers to ask the right questions, see what works and take action to address health inequalities. Ageing well requires new approaches across the life course. Investing in prevention will have long-term economic and social benefits for many generations to come.”

The full report can be seen here: https://ilcuk.org.uk/introducing-the-healthy-ageing-and-prevention-index The report includes a breakdown of the methods, analysis, along with a list of the top 50 countries in the Index.

Other News

What’s it like for older adults to live in a care home?

Hallmark Foundation is delighted to fund a pioneering UK-wide research project on the experiences of living in residential care, from the perspectives of older people, their families and carers. The project is led by a research team from City, University of London and Ulster University with My Home Life England.

Read More