International Health Status Statistics

Color Coding Key
GREEN Ranked 1st for statistic
RED Ranked last for statistic

Using various indicators of the health condition of each country, we find that the United States has higher infant and child mortality rates, smokes less, is very obese, and has a relatively low life expectancy for the modern nations compared.

  Life expectancy by rank Infant mortality Low birth weight Adult obesity Child mortality Maternal mortality
Australia 7 3.8 6.2 21.7 15.1 7
Canada   4.9 6.2 15.4 14.8 12
Denmark 23 3.6 7.0 11.4   12
France 6 3.5 6.8 10.5 12.5 8
Germany 17 3.6 6.9 13.6 13.4 7
Italy 2 3.4 7.1 9.9 9.2 4
Japan 3 2.3 9.6 3.4 12.8 5
Netherlands 11 3.6 6.6 11.2 9.0 6
Norway 10 2.8 4.6 9.0 13.0 7
Sweden 8 2.1 4.2 10.2 7.6 4
United Kingdom 16 4.3 7.0 24.0 8.4 12
United States 24 6.1 8.1 34.3 22.9 21


View OECD statistics

Life expectancy by rank View Graphical Data

Life expectancy by OECD rank of 32 countries (Canada not included), for 2011. See also WHO's World Health Statistics 2007, for 2005, Table: Health status: mortality. PDF p. 23

Infant mortality View Graphical Data

Deaths per 1,000 live births before one year of age for most recent year, 2011-12.

Low birth weight View Graphical Data

Less than 2,500 grams, for 2011.

Adult obesity View Graphical Data

Percent of adults with a Body Mass Index over 30. OECD, for 2007;  Australia for 1999; France, Japan, and United States for 2006; and Denmark, Germany, and Norway for 2005.

View UNICEF reportView Graphical Data

UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre Report Card 7 Child poverty in perspective, 2007. PDF pp. 44 and 45. Child mortality from accidents and injuries per 100,000 under 19 years. Average of latest three years also available.

Visit World Bank siteView Graphical Data

For 2010. Number of women who die during pregnancy and childbirth, per 100,000 live births. The data are estimated with a regression model using information on fertility, birth attendants, and HIV prevalence. Estimates developed by WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, and the World Bank.


"U.S. Alone Among Western Countries on Lack of Paid Maternity Leave, UN Finds" John Zarocostas

MclatchyDC, May 2014

  • The United States is the only Western country, and one of only three in the world, that does not provide some kind of monetary payment to new mothers who take maternity leave from their jobs.
  • The other two countries are Oman, an absolute monarchy in the Persian Gulf and Papua New Guinea, a South Pacific nation where the U.S. State Department says violence against women is so common that 60 percent of men in a U.N. study acknowledged having committed a rape.
  • The other 182 countries surveyed provide either a Social Security-like government payment to women who have recently given birth or adopted a child or require employers to continue at least a percentage of the worker's pay.
  • In 70 countries, paid leave is also provided for fathers

Maternal Mortality: "How the Right Wing is Killing Women," Robert Reich

Blog, May 2014

  • Rate of maternal deaths has risen over the past decade, to the highest in 25 years.
  • U.S. is one of only 8 nations where the rate is rising; it has been dropping in most other nations.
  • Group with the greatest rise in pregnancy-related deaths in the U.S. is 20-24 year olds.
  • U.S. states with high poverty rates have maternal death rates 77% higher than states with lower levels of poverty.
  • Women with no health insurance are four times more likely to die during pregnancy or in childbirth than women who are insured.
  • African-American mothers are more than three times as likely to die as a result of pregnancy and childbirth than their white counterparts.

"The U.S. ranks 50th in maternal mortality globally," Ken Hanly

Digital Journal, March 9, 2014. "A woman in the U.S. is just as likely to suffer a maternal death as a woman in Iran and four times more likely than a woman in Germany." This represents a 30% increase for the U.S. from 2001-10 despite outspending all other countries on maternal care.

"U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health (2013)," The National Academic Press

"The U.S. heatlh disadvantage is pervasive: it affects all age groups up to age 75 and is observed for multiple diseases, biological and behavioral, risk factors and injuries. More specifically, when compared to other high-income countries, the United States fares worse in 9 health domains:

  • adverse birth outcomes
  • injuries, accidents, and homicides
  • adolescent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections
  • HIV and AIDS
  • drug related mortality
  • obesity and diabetes
  • heart disease
  • chronic lung disease
  • disability"

(p. 87). The National Academic Press' book is available for free at the link above.

Rob Stein, Washington Post, 8/15/2007, based on research by John Komlos, University of Munich:

  • Americans are now on average shorter than Europeans (men rank 9th, women 15th).
  • The Dutch are now tallest on earth, 2 inches taller than Americans.
  • Since the 1950s Americans, until then the tallest, have grown shorter while Europeans have grown taller.
  • American diet is plentiful in calories but less nutritious
  • European universal health care contributes to height increase
  • Komlos excluded Asians and Hispanics.

Maggie Farley, Los Angeles Times, 2/15/2007, using UNICEF:

  • Among 21 healthy nations, U.S. and U.K. are the worst places to be a child, Netherlands is the best.
  • U.S. worst in health and safety
  • U.S. highest proportion of single-parent homes

"US Newborn Survival Rate Ranks Low," Lindsey Tanner

Washington Post, 5/9/2006, based on research by Save the Children

  • Among 33 industrialized countries, U.S. ranks next to last in infant mortality.
  • The rate in Japan is 1.8 per 1,000 life births; Norway, Iceland, Finland 2 per 1,000; the US, 6 per 1,000.
  • US black infant mortality is 9 per 1,000, comparable to less industrialized nations.
  • Poor U.S. statistics reflect lack of health care before and during pregnancy and short maternity leaves.
  • U.S. and U.K. ranked last in 2006 among industrialized nations in mortality risks and contraceptive use.

"U.S. lags behind 41 other nations in life expectancy," Stephen Ohlemacher

San Francisco Chronicle, 8/12/2007

  • US has one of the highest obesity rates in the world, almost 1/3, and about 2/3 are overweight or obese.
  • Infant mortality in 2004 was 6.8.per 1,000 live births (13.7 for blacks).
  • Black American life expectancy, 73.3 years (males 69.8), is 5 years shorter than whites

"UN Hits Back at US in Report Saying Parts of America are as Poor as Third World," Paul Vallely

The Independent, September 8, 2005

  • Black mothers have twice the low birth weight babies and twice the infant mortality as white mothers.
  • for 5 years infant mortality has been increasing and has reached the rate as Malaysia.
  • a child of the upper 5 percent by income lives 25 percent longer than one of the lower 5 percent by income.

"Maternal mortality shames superpower US," Haider Rizvi

Inter Press Service, October, 2007. Based on UN public health experts:

  • In 2005, US ranked 41st among 171 countries in maternal mortality.
  • The reasons is that other women in industrialized countries get good health and family planning services.

Based on Eve Lackritz, Chief, Maternal and Infant Health branch of the Centers for Disease Control:

  • Black women have four times the maternal mortality rates as white
  • Two leading causes of maternal mortality are obesity and hypertension.
  • Cubans live longer than Americans. Cuba is an impoverished dictatorship with fully socialized health care.

"ASH Working For Tough World Smoking Bans"

ASH Smoking and Health Review, May-June 2007

-A treaty called the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) would assist countries in enforcing laws against smoking that are already in place as well as provide further opportunities for attorneys to pursue legal action against institutions that do not enforce current smoking bans. In signing the FCTC, the country acknowledges secondhand smoke as a legitimate danger to public health, that there is no moderated amount of or designated areas in which seconhand smoke can be healthily maintained, as well as other measures. While the United States has not ratified, accepted, approved, or formally confirmed the treaty, all 11 other countries reviewed on this site have.

See also note for Jeff Ritterman's article, "Equality and health" on the "Income Distribution" page.


Years of life lost before age 64 per 100 persons

Years lost related to life style factors: smoking, overweight, hypertension, diet/cholesterol/blood sugar, exercise, auto accidents, and guns

Childhood overweight and obesity

Height data

Contaminants in breast milk