What is it that makes living in Spain so healthy?

The Local Spain
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What is it that makes living in Spain so healthy?
A waiter serves paella on a beach in Ibiza. Photo: AFP

Spain was recently ranked the world’s healthiest country and it will soon claim the planet’s longest life expectancy. What exactly is the Spanish secret to success?


Good health news has come in droves over the last few months for those living in Spain.

In October, a study by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predicted that Spain would surpass Japan to boast the world’s longest life expectancy by 2040.

Then, the Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index for 2019, published last week, gave Spain the top prize, mentioning the highly reputed ‘mediterranean diet’ and good public healthcare.

But will a move to Spain actually lead to a healthier lifestyle? And if so, why?

We posed the question to The Local readers, and there response was overwhelming: absolutely, thanks to quality food, good weather, a healthy and relaxed lifestyle, and solid health care.

Here are some of the highlights of their responses:

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Photo: AFP

A Healthy Diet

Numerous readers raved about how much healthier the food available to them in Spain was compared to where they came from.

Stelan Lindell, a transplant from Sweden, has been able to observe the positive effects that Spanish food has had on him:

A. O’Hare in Madrid has no doubt about the reasons for his improved health: ‘One of the main reasons is the quality of food - both in the supermarket and in restaurants.’

He compares the quality of foodstuffs available favourably to that of the United Kingdom in just about every department.

‘Food in the supermarket is much fresher than back in the UK - 4 metre long fish counters are replenished daily, the fruit and vegetables always seem fresher and there is more choice - probably because a lot of it is grown in Spain and doesn't travel as far to reach the supermarket. The meat is always fresher and the butchers take pride in letting you know it comes from a farm just down the road (even in the big supermarket chains).’

He also points out that lower prices in the supermarket make it easier to eat healthy.

An Active, Sun-Soaked, Low-Stress Lifestyle

The Local readers were generally very positive about the lifestyle in Spain, thanks to several factors. Without a doubt, good weather plays a role:

‘My health and lifestyle have improved without a doubt. Just waking up in the morning to sunshine and blue skies is one factor... I spend so much more time outside,’ says Sally Veall in Catalonia.

She and others say they are more active as a result. Karen Krypner, near Barcelona, attests to this: ‘We walk much more in Spain than at home... the sun relieves aches and pains in joints too.’

Those who lived on the coast and in small towns were particularly enthusiastic about the effects of sun and sea on their well-being: June Johnson says of her husband Maurice: ‘My husband was diagnosed with asthma and had to use inhalers in the U.K., but hasn’t used them at all since coming her 16 years ago, and no sign of any asthma at all.’

Maybe it has something to do with the fine weather, but many readers, like Stephanie Thompson, also spoke highly of the Spanish people and a laid-back attitude towards living.

High Quality Healthcare

Echoing the reasons given by Bloomberg for their attribution of the number one ranking to Spain, many residents praised the Spanish health care system.

George Johnson in Murcia was unequivocal: ‘The health care is far better than in the U.K.’ - a sentiment echoed by June and Maurice Johnson.

‘The Spanish Health Service is excellent, despite increased waiting times. If something is urgent, it's dealt with quickly’, adds Sally Veall.

Maureen Anderson also credits Spanish health care, as well as a lack of pollution:

A Few Exceptions

Not everyone had such a rosy outlook on Spain, as some complained about late dinner times, a penchant for fried food, air and noise pollution, and lack of air conditioning.

When asked about the most unhealthy aspect of the Spanish lifestyle, Karen Kryper points out: ‘Alcohol is so cheap.’

Tough luck, Karen. No country is perfect.


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