They may be out of work and struggling with financial disaster, but the Spanish have the highest healthy life expectancy in Europe – and beat Australia, Canada, Norway and the USA as well. Spain has an excellent healthcare system, ranked seventh in 2000 on the only occasion the World Health Organisation has compiled a league table. The UK was 18th. But it is not just the structures or even the skills of the doctors that matter. It is also the state of health of the people who arrive in the clinics.
Maybe the Mediterranean diet, heavy on fruit, salads, fish and olive oil, is responsible for the low death rate from heart disease – Spain has the 3rd lowest level of years of life lost. It also does well on a number of cancers – pancreatic, prostate, breast and oesophageal. Families still care for ailing relatives – taking daily meals to those in hospital is normal and premature deaths from falls are low.