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The World’s Healthiest Places

Where is the healthiest place in the world to live? Attempting to pinpoint this location on the map is fraught with difficulties from the off. We imagine some sort of mythical place where longevity is a given, rainy days are unheard of, and sports and great food are integral to the culture but natural disasters and pollution certainly aren’t. It’s difficult to believe that a truly perfect place exists. The locations profiled here, though, all share certain similarities; that is, that foods are generally fresh, local and organic, the pace of life is leisurely and the air clean, and the sun shines a lot more than the global average. All these factors together, combined with an overall affluence, seem to be the key to finding the world’s healthiest places.

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New Zealand

Celebrated for its epic natural landscapes, including beaches, mountains and volcanoes, New Zealand is synonymous with fresh air and the great outdoors.

Healthcare in New Zealand is affordable, and the country’s warm climate and culture of exercise and travel are notable factors in making this one of the healthiest countries on the planet. The country boasts an active, outdoorsy population; one in which hiking, water-sports and getting lots of fresh air and exercise are deeply embedded into its culture. New Zealand’s stunning mountains and beaches are famous worldwide, and naturally encourage visitors and locals to get outdoors and get moving, in stark contrast to the sedentary lifestyles of harsher climes.

New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, is home to more than a third of the country’s population, and is an affluent area where quality of life is high and life expectancy is long – around 80.7 years by some estimates. The city is nestled, uniquely, between two harbors, and with its prosperous population and high average disposable income, it’s no surprise that Auckland has the greatest number of privately-owned boats per capita in the world. Wellington, New Zealand’s capital, is the world’s southernmost capital city, meaning that the climate is warm and pleasant, receiving some 2,000 hours of sunshine per year. The city’s crime levels, too, are consistently low, whereas levels of healthcare are high. Even the fact that the country can be prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions fails to outweigh factors such as the nation’s mountains, beaches, climate and prosperous lifestyle, or threaten its claim to the title of one of the world’s healthiest places.

Sardinia, Italy

An idyllic, rugged island in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Italy, Sardinia is not just beautiful, but also one of the world’s healthiest places to live.

Dotted with lagoons, beaches and coastal lakes, the Sardinian landscape encourages and rewards the active traveller, as exploring the island’s rugged coastline in its pleasant Mediterranean climate is an excellent way to catch a tan and stay fit and healthy while swimming, hiking and cycling. Eating well after an exhausting day of exercise isn’t difficult in Sardinia; locally sourced and produced, typical Sardinian food included tomatoes, garlic, olives, prosciutto,  wholegrain breads and copious amounts of seafood. Packed with vegetables and lean, protein-rich fish, Sardinian food is not just delicious, but also healthy – the secret perhaps being that your average Sardinian’s essential diet hasn’t changed much in a hundred years.

It’s perhaps the combination of all of these factors – the island’s forgiving climate, athletic lifestyle and vitamin-stuffed diet – that gives Sardinia its unrivalled, therapeutic qualities as a Mediterranean idyll away from the continent. Unsurprisingly, Sardinia shares with the Japanese island of Okinawa the highest rate of centenarians in the world – some 22 in every hundred thousand of the population. Reassuringly, the Sardinian way of life attests that a squeaky-clean lifestyle isn’t always mandatory to ensure longevity: the local Sardinian wine, Cannonau, is a rich red that seems beneficial to one’s health when consumed in moderation, being known for its very high levels of antioxidants.

Copenhagen, Denmark

A diverse, bustling city, Copenhagen ranks highly on many quality of life indicators. Standards of living are high, and it is perhaps this overall affluence that secures Copenhagen’s spot on the list of the world’s healthiest places.

By world standards, Copenhagen’s infrastructure is advanced and its medical and educational services well-funded. In 2010, the city was also ranked as one of the world’s most eco-friendly places; to its credit, (and like many European capitals) Copenhagen is a city of cyclists, where an impressive 36 percent of its population commutes by bike every day. This statistic gives the city a double-boost in the health stakes, as not only do Copenhagen’s citizens burn calories in a twice-daily workout to and from the office, fewer cars on the streets also means less pollution, lessening the impact on the population’s respiratory system. Copenhagen boasts many spacious, leafy parks as well as three beaches, making it a green city in which it’s not difficult to find refuge from the bustle of the metropolis. Moreover, it’s considered one of Scandinavia’s primary cultural hubs, with an influential jazz scene, an array of museums and 13 Michelin-starred restaurants, so those seeking a decent cultural milieu to relax in over a weekend won’t be disappointed. Over 15 percent of the Danish population are over the age of 65, attesting to the fact that the city’s infrastructure and emphasis on the environment convert to long, healthy lives for its citizens. Increased health awareness of recent years has translated into the country as a whole becoming one of Europe’s leading consumers and producers of organic food and drink.

Singapore

An island city-state some eighty miles north of the equator, Singapore represents Asia on the list of the world’s healthiest places to live.

Consisting of 63 islands, there is plenty of scope for travellers – and citizens – to stay active exploring this beautiful country. It is as a global city, though, that Singapore really shines, its economy being known as one of the freest, most innovative, and most competitive on earth. The World Bank has named Singapore as the easiest place in the world to do business, and, impressively, the country is consistently ranked as one of the least corrupt places on earth, with very low levels of crime. Largely as a result of its thriving economy, Singapore boasts the world’s highest percentage of millionaires per capita. In Singapore, it seems that wealthiness begets healthiness – the country’s healthcare system is efficient, and private healthcare is of a very high standard. Gyms in the city are popular and plentiful, and this combined with Singapore’s young, active population means that adult obesity levels are low.

Culturally, Singapore represents a diverse fusion of ‘West meets East” practices – ethnicity and religion vary widely in the country, and Singapore’s dining and arts scenes reflect this multiculturalism in a highly varied style of cuisine. The diversity and quality of its food is touted as a reason to visit Singapore – the truly adventurous may wish to taste the country’s divisive national fruit, the durian. Many Singaporeans are sport enthusiasts, too, which contributes to their generally healthy lifestyles – popular sports include football, basketball, cricket, kayaking, waterskiing, and badminton. Public amenities such as swimming pools, basketball courts and indoor sport complexes abound in Singapore’s residential areas, meaning that getting active is far from difficult.

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