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RANKING

Why Norway is one of the ‘world’s healthiest countries’

Norway has been ranked one of the top four healthiest countries in the world. We asked two experts to explain whether Norway really is in good health.

Why Norway is one of the 'world's healthiest countries'
Illustration photo: Lucija Ros on Unsplash

In a recent ranking that compared the 'world's healthiest countries', Norway was placed fourth, with Japan, South-Korea, and Finland taking the top three highest ranked spots on the list.

The analysis ranked the healthiest OECD countries around the world, looking at various factors including life expectancy, prevalence of smoking, alcohol consumption, adult obesity and vaccination rates.

An overall weighted score was then created and each country was ranked. The scores are based on WHO and OECD data.

The data on Norway used in the study includes the following:

  • Life expectancy at birth – 82.8 years old
  • Prevalence of current tobacco smoking – 18.4 percent
  • Prevalence of obesity among adults – 23.1 percent
  • Vaccination rates – 96 percent
  • Prevalence of insufficient physical activity among adults – 31.7 percent
  • Population using at least basic drinking water services – 100 percent
  • Overall score – 75.88

The ranking is one of a number that are produced annually which seek to compare the health records of different countries.

Norway and Norwegian cities usually perform well on lists of this kind, although there are some exceptions.

READ ALSO: Why Norway is set to lose top spot on UN development ranking

“A number of rankings have been made of which countries it is best to live in, and in the current ranking, Norway comes in fourth place. Lifestyle factors such as smoking, physical activity and alcohol consumption, life expectancy and organisational or structural conditions have been included, and Norway generally scores well on all these factors when compared with other countries,” says Haakon E. Meyer, a professor in Chronic Diseases and Ageing and senior medical officer with the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH), the national health authority.

But do the rankings reflect public health in Norway in practice?

“Yes, I think the ranking reflects reality. I see the figures are taken from respected and well-known sources (WHO and OECD), and I have seen similar figures elsewhere and over several years,” says Jon Buestad, chief advisor for health and welfare with Lindesnes Municipality.

“It is known in health and political circles that Norway scores high on such rankings and has done so at least since the 1980s-1990s. How high the country scores depends somewhat on which indicators are emphasised,” Buestad noted.

In comments provided to The Local, both senior medical professionals said the ranking is reflective of reality but pointed out that health can be measured in different ways. 

“However, making an accurate ranking is challenging, and the result is affected by which factors are emphasized. Therefore, one often sees that Norway comes out a little different in different rankings, but generally Norway comes out well,” Meyer said.

Buestad also said a country's overall health can be measured in many different ways.

“I do not think it is wrong, but… you can measure (comparisons of national public health) in many ways. Japan has a very high score for suicide, it is not included here,” he notes as an example.

Another popular national comparison for which Nordic countries are known for their high scores is happiness, most famously in the World Happiness Report. Norway was last top of this ranking in 2017 and placed fifth in 2020.

“Otherwise, there is another measurement that has been popular in the Nordic countries, it measures self-experienced happiness: Happiness Index. Here, Japan is further down, while, for example, the USA is higher. The Nordic countries are repeatedly ranked highly, for some years Norway was in first place (in the 1990s),” Buestad said. 

What factors ensure Norway is always near the top of these lists?

“Life expectancy and infant mortality are generally considered to be the two most important indicators, and here Norway and the Nordic countries score highly,” Buestad explains.

“Why do we score high? The common explanation is related to our welfare model with a social and health ‘safety net’,” he adds.

Examples of the safety net include public health services for all, an average high level of education and low unemployment.

“Statistically, people have better health the better education they have, and if they have a secure job,” Buestad says.

But while Norway appears to constantly rank high on these types of lists, it is not certain to always be the case in the future.

We are gradually beginning to notice some of the disadvantages of high prosperity and wealth, Buestad said.

“Life expectancy rose for many years in Norway, while now the increase has stopped. Some of the explanation can perhaps be found in the indicator morbid obesity, which has increased quite a bit in recent years. We also drink more now than before,” he said.

“The negative development in these areas is probably due to the fact that general prosperity has become so high, people have more money and on average we work fewer hours than before, we have more time and money to eat and relax,” he added. 

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For members

MONEY

How and where to get the cheapest fuel in Norway

Norway is leading the pack when it comes to the sales of new electric vehicles. In fact, nearly 60 percent of all new car sales in this country are electric. But for petrol and diesel car owners who have yet to make the switch, knowing when and where to find the cheapest fuel can end up saving you thousands of kroner.

A petrol station in Norway in 2021. Refuelling your car is a pricey business in the Nordic country, but there are ways to limit costs.
A petrol station in Norway in 2021. Refuelling your car is a pricey business in the Nordic country, but there are ways to limit costs. Photo by Malik Skydsgaard on Unsplash

Why is it so expensive to fuel up?

Fuel – gasoline, petrol and diesel — is an expensive monthly bill for many. Norway typically has some of the highest fuel prices in Europe. The at-times sky high prices are mainly due to taxes on fuel imposed by the government, as well as the usual international market factors.

The Norwegian Competition Authority or Konkurransetilsynet recently stated that it is perhaps now more important than ever before to be aware of the ever changing fuel prices.

We have registered price differences of 2-3 kroner in the same local area. There is undoubtedly money to be saved by following along,” said Marita Skjæveland, deputy leader of the Norwegian Competition Authority’s energy section to broadcaster TV2.

The average price to fuel up between the months of July to October this year was 18.8 kroner per litre (2.26 dollars or 1.94 euros). 

READ ALSO: Five things that are becoming more expensive in Norway (and why)

Does it matter which day you fuel up?

As of writing, routinely fueling your vehicle on a specific day of the week will likely no longer save you money. 

“We see that the players in the market still raise prices two to three times a week, but that it happens on different days from week to week,” Skjæveland told TV2. The competition analyst added that by the end of the year, fixed price increases may also happen over the weekend. As such, it’s important to stay updated not only on the weekdays, but on the weekends as well.

Previously, Sunday evenings and early on Monday mornings used to be known as the cheapest time to fill your vehicle’s tank with petrol or diesel.  This is now a practice of the past. 

Where can I find cheap petrol prices online?

Hunting for the cheapest fuel prices in Norway is quite common. It’s also a normal discussion to have with your neighbours and colleagues. So don’t be worried about appearing ‘cheap’ if you want to talk about the high price of fuel. Or share which local petrol stations you have noticed to be less expensive. 

You can check Facebook for groups that are committed to informing the public on where to find the cheapest petrol stations. 

For Oslo and its surrounding areas, you can try here, and if you live in or are driving through the south of Norway, check here.

Drivestoff is an app designed to compare prices of petrol stations you will drive by on your journey so you can plan ahead to get the cheapest fuel. You can find more information and download the app here.

You can also save money by looking for a queue of cars at a petrol station. Yes, it may be just busy. But oftentimes, a queue is a signal for cheaper petrol prices. 

Memberships and credit cards can save you money on fuel

If you’re in the market for a credit card, look for one that might save you money on fuel. Credit cards such as 365 Direct and Flexi VISA will give you good discount options at all petrol stations. If you have a particular station you always fill up at, such as a YX, you can sign up for the company’s credit card to receive discounts on fuel. 

There are also benefits to be had if you sign up for a credit card or a drivstoffkort or “fuel card”.

A drivstoffkort is a special credit card which you use to pay when refuelling your vehicle. The cards generally only work at the stations run by the company to which the card belongs. Different deals and types of card are available, depending on the company.

Specific deals on credit card and drivstoffkort discounts can be found (in Norwegian) here

You can sometimes use membership cards with grocery stores or real estate organisations to give you discounts on fuel. For example, the Coop Medlemskort will save you 45 øre when filling up at Circle K petrol stations. Trumf kortet, which is associated with the chains Kiwi, Meny, Joker and Spar, gives you bonuses when you fill up at Shell stations. OBOS members receive a 27 øre discount on petrol and diesel at both Statoil and 1-2-3-Automat stations. 

Where can I get the lowest priced petrol?

Petrol stations in Norway are extremely competitive. There is no one company that is known to sell gasoline or diesel cheaper than the others

Like many other goods, fuel prices around Norway will rise and fall with demand. Typically, fuel stations located in mountainous towns or areas that heavily rely on tourism will have more expensive fuel. If you’re on holiday in such a town or area, and can wait to fuel up when you get to a more trafficked motorway, it will likely save you money. 

Petrol stations that don’t have employees on location tend to be slower at increasing their prices to match the competition. So if you know you’ll be passing by an ubemannet or “unstaffed” petrol station on your trip, it may be cost-effective to wait and fill up there. 

Consider how much time you want to invest

Joining the hunt for cheaper fuel may not be for everyone. It is time consuming, and admittedly hard to achieve due to the ever-changing prices. If you are not dependent on your vehicle for your daily commute and don’t often drive long distances, fueling up at your local gas station may be the best choice. 

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