Statistics on Health Spending

One indicator of a nation’s health is the level of government and/or individual health care spending. One can assume that the more governments and individuals spend on health care, the better their health. This isn’t always true (spending can be wasteful or misdirected), but it is the case that very low levels of spending indicate poor health care systems as well as poor healthcare.

international comparison of spending on health 1980-2004

healthcare spending


How much each country spends on healthcare per head of the population:

map how much each country spends on healthcare per head of the population

(source, click image to enlarge)

Here are 2 graphs I found on Matt Yglesias’ blog, which, when taken together, paint a rather gloomy picture of the quality of healthcare in the U.S. (a reminder of the way in which this is a human rights issue can be found here):

healthcare spending per person in the us and the oecd

life expectancy in the us and the oecd


Compared to other developed countries, the U.S. spends more on healthcare, but not, it seems, with a lot of success: life expectancy, one if not the most important indicator of the quality of public health, is not as good as elsewhere.

health spending

It’s true that life expectancy should not be the only criterion; the qualitty of healthcare systems depends on many things, and life expectancy can be determined by lifestyle choices as well as the quality of healthcare. And yet, even when taking into account other criteria, the system in the US is worse compared to those of other countries:

ranking of national healthcare systems


Health spending is high in the US because doctors’ wages are high and because there’s a tendency to use expensive technology and procedures. The fact that both providers and insurers are for-profit also plays a role.

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