Spaniards have a zest for wine and fine food. Many tend to eat late and party into the wee hours. Smoking, especially among teens and young adults, is common.
Despite the hard-charging lifestyle, Spaniards can expect to live nearly 72.8 years without serious illness or disability, the fifth-longest healthy age span in the world. Japanese can expect a world's best 74.5 years of healthy living, while the U.S. ranked 24th, with a healthy living expectancy of 70 years, according to the World Health Organization.
The WHO report released earlier this year gave Spain's healthcare system high marks, ranking it as the seventh-best overall. The U.S. ranked 37th in the survey, which was based on health indicators, system responsiveness and how costs are distributed.
As with other European nations, the percentage of Spain's gross domestic product devoted to healthcare has steadily increased, reaching 8.6% in 1998, up from only 3.7% in 1970.
Spain is the world's leader in organ donations. Public acceptance and a well-organized transplantation system have combined to vault organ donations to 30 donors per 1 million people, double the European average and triple the rate in the U.S. Spain also is rapidly aging. Today, about 17% of the population is 65 or older. By 2050, that percentage is expected to double.
"The government can't cover the cost of long-term care," says John DeZulueta, managing director of Sanitas, a Spanish health insurance company. "We have to stimulate the growth of individual retirement accounts and offer the private sector the opportunity to develop nursing homes. Presently, long-term care is a small and fragmented business."