South Africa – World’s Most Unhealthy Country

As part of 191 countries studied for being the healthiest and unhealthiest, South Africa is the unhealthiest in 2019.

You read it right! Tracking the healthiest countries globally by using 10 key measures, the Indigo Wellness Index presented us with these results recently. Although it might seem like a shock to some, it has been a long time coming. Stats on South Africa from the World Health Organisation (WHO) highlights that we have the highest obesity rates in sub-Saharan Africa, with our adult population sitting at over 28%. Their latest statistics also show a 26% probability of dying from cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, or chronic respiratory disease between the ages of 30 and 70 (Business Insider SA).

The Indigo Wellness Index – a study headed by Richard Davies of the economics consultancy firm Bloomsbury Economics (believe it or not) – is alleged to be the most comprehensive currently. The 10 metrics the index looks at are blood pressure, blood glucose, obesity, depression, happiness, alcohol use, tobacco use, exercise, healthy life expectancy and government spending on healthcare. A ratio is calculated between one – which is good – and zero, which is bad. As well as the 10 health metrics they also make use of data from public health records. From the last study, South Africa was ranked the unhealthiest and Canada was billed the healthiest country in the world. Inactivity, high alcohol use, life expectancy and obesity are where we do really badly.

South Africa

Interestingly, advanced countries like the US, Japan, France and Germany did not make it to the top 25, which is attributed to their poor scores in depression and obesity, even though they have higher government spend on healthcare. On the other hand, smaller countries showed a trend of being healthier and happier, which is attributed to their increased life expectancy in the recent past. In other studies, this improvement was said to be due to community living. Having a strong family or friends’ support system has long been proven to be a health benefit, yet it’s something that seems to be dwindling in our country due to all sorts of reasons. Let’s go back to our roots – the spirit of Ubuntu. 

During a discussion on SAfm recently, Professor Sue Goldstein from Priceless SA (Priority Cost Effective Lessons for System Strengthening South Africa, a research unit based at Wits University School of Public Health in the Faculty of Health Sciences) addressed two of our worst indicators: alcohol and obesity. She said that what is worrying is that people in South Africa don’t recognise themselves as obese and don’t perceive the health risks of obesity. Also, while half the population don’t drink, it is obvious that many of those who do can take it to the extreme. Prof. Goldstein recommends an overhaul of the system through legislation – from banning the advertising of alcohol to decrease our rate of consumption, to the promotion of healthy foods and proper administration of lifestyle diseases medication.

We totally agree with the Professor. The promotion of veggies and fruits, access to organically grown foods and the promotion of holistic wellbeing through mindfulness for all South Africans, especially those with lifestyle diseases, is our mission at Abundance Wholesome Foods! While it is mostly convenient and cheaper, fast foods and processed foods lack in nutrition, and we all know this. We invite everyone to get involved in one way or the other. Get informed, grow and make your own food and know what you’re putting into your body. We are what we eat.


All references are linked above.

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