No ‘nanny state’ makes Spain the best place to enjoy a drink

Duty-free wine, low taxes on beer and spirits, and no statuatory closing time for bars make Spain the most libertarian in Europe when it comes to consuming alcohol.

No 'nanny state' makes Spain the best place to enjoy a drink
A nice glass of sherry. Photo: Ignacio Palomo Duarte/Flickr

That fact has now been recognized in the Nanny State Index, a new ranking of the “worst places in the European Union to eat, drink, smoke and vape.”

Produced by the European Policy Information Center (EPICENTER), an independent group of think tanks that advocate free-market policies, the report rates Finland as the worst, followed by Sweden, the UK, Ireland and Hungary.

Spain ranks bottom of a list of most restricted countries when it comes to food and drink, making it the freest in the European Union.

However recent anti-smoking legislation, which saw a total ban on smoking in all bars, restaurants and workplaces meant its overall placing was 21 out of 28 in the ranking.  

The Czech Republic was considered the most free overall followed by Germany.

Table published from

The index was developed under EPICENTER’s view that “nanny state” policies interfere with individuals’ choices and often do not work.

“Most of the taxes, laws and regulations covered in the Nanny State Index (NSI) were introduced on grounds of ‘public health’,” the report states.

The think tank groups scored each country and then compared these scores to the countries’ life expectancies. Even countries with low nanny state scores, meaning less regulation, have comparatively high life expectancies.

Spain ranks second behind only Japan for life expectancy among the OECD list of advanced economies with an average life expectancy at birth is 83.2 years.

“The big picture is that there is no correlation between nanny state regulation and higher life expectancy,” concludes the index report.

“The government should leave [these decisions] totally up to individuals. I don’t see the government as having a role to play in everyday pleasures and weekend pleasures, what we eat, drink, smoke, etc,” Mattias Svensson of Swedish think tank Timbro, which collaborated on the report, told The Local.

“People enjoy these things, they know it’s not healthy and we know they know that. Grown ups can handle these things, which have negative effects and these are easy to measure…. A bureaucrat can never make that decision, they can’t know the pleasure side of it and why we drink, they can’t understand that through looking at diagrams at a desk so they shouldn’t make that decision for us.

“It’s very important that people can make decisions, even the wrong decisions, for themselves, that’s what freedom is,” he said. 

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In which parts of Spain do people live longest?

Life expectancy in Spain is the second highest in the world but new data from the country’s national statistics institute reveals where exactly in Spain people live the longest, and it isn’t where you might expect. 

In which parts of Spain do people live longest?
Life expectancy in Spain is the highest in the EU. Photo: ANDER GILLENEA/AFP

People in Spain are forecast to have the longest life expectancy in the world by 2040 – with a projected average lifespan of nearly 85.8 years.

It’s hard to fully understand the Spanish secret to a long life, but according to the scientists it’s a combination of their Mediterranean diet, a good healthcare system, plenty of walking, a close-knit society and a helpful serving of hedonism. If they cut down on drinking and smoking, Spaniards could no doubt live even longer.


The current life expectancy in Spain has dropped from 84 down to 82.4 in large part due to the coronavirus pandemic, but new data revealed by Spain’s National Statistics Institute (INE) reveals where exactly in Spain people lived the longest in 2018, in normal times before the virus. 

The six municipalities where people live longest in Spain are all in the Madrid region.

The highest life expectancy in the whole country is that of the residents of Pozuelo de Alarcón with an average of 86.2 years. 

Pozuelo is also the wealthiest municipality in the capital and in Spain according to INE stats with average net yearly earnings of €28,326 per inhabitant, which suggests that the higher standard of living is also helping people live longer in Pozuelo.  

The other Madrid region municipalities where people reach 85 years of age or more on average are Majadahonda (85.9 years), Alcorcón (85.4 years), Las Rozas (85.3 years) and Alcobendas (85.3 years), all of which are relatively wealthy residential parts of Madrid, with the exception of Alcorcón. 

In sixth place is another Madrid municipality, San Sebastián de los Reyes (84.8 years), followed by Getxo in Bilbao (84.7), then two more Madrid municipalities – Leganés (84.5) and Getafe (84.4) – followed by Sant Cugat del Vallès, the only Barcelona municipality to make the top ten. 

Table showing the municipalities with the highest and lowest life expectancy in Spain. Source: INE

What exactly is behind people in Madrid living longer than in other parts of Spain? 

The stressful life in the capital, the higher levels of air pollution and reported cuts to public health spending in the region in recent years could all contribute to the assumption that big city life takes its toll on life expectancy. 

In other places around the globe where people live longest, such as Okinawa in Japan and Italy’s Corsica (both islands), an active and social life in less stressful rural settings are thought to contribute to making many locals live past 90. 

But in Spain it seems that adding those extra years to an already long and healthy life could be influenced by income. That’s perfectly evidenced in countries with large rich-poor divides such as the US.

The places with the lowest life expectancy in Spain – which at its very lowest is a very reasonable 79.7 years of age – are mainly lower-income coastal locations with milder climates in the Canary Islands and Andalusia, including cities such as Malaga, Almería, Cádiz, Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (see table above).

So maybe there’s something about the hustle and bustle of the capital that keeps Madrileños enjoying life that little bit longer. According to Spanish fact-checking website, the stats should have included the high death rate in the capital during the pandemic.

Either way, wherever it is in Spain, people tend to live longer than anywhere else in the EU, and by 2040 their life expectancy will be the highest in the world.

It’s certainly a factor to consider if you’re thinking of moving here, España might just keep you alive for longer.