Beer-loving Belgians 'healthiest people in the world'

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The Independent Online

Never mind their passion for heaps of steaming mussels, French fries soaked in mayonnaise, potent beers and chocolates: Belgians are the healthiest people in the world, the London-based World Markets Research Centre (WMRC) said yesterday.

The business research group issued the results of a worldwide survey showing Belgium topping a 175-nation health chart in which the United States – which spends more on health care than any other country – was placed 17th.

Belgium is followed by Iceland, the Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, Italy, Norway and Australia.

Sierra Leone is the world's sickliest country in the WMRC's Health of Nations survey, which compared quality of healthcare spending with what countries get back in terms of such indicators as life expectancy and mortality rates.

The WMRC healthcare research manager Michelle Perkins said: "Belgium – a high-income country with a small population – has taken its health seriously for some time. Jean-Claude Van Damme may only have been ahead of the game when he called himself 'the Muscles from Brussels'."

The study found Britain to suffer from "three decades of under-investment", and added that "continental levels of health and healthcare are unlikely to be reached until the end of this decade at the earliest".

High public spending on health care alone is meaningless, the WMRC study reported. While the US "is the most technologically and pharmaceutically advanced country in the world, some 40 million of its population are without health insurance, have problems accessing healthcare and are leading increasingly sedentary lifestyles".

The study found the global average life expectancy was in "the mid-to-high 60s" but that in many African states this is "now falling to below 30".