What Countries Spend on Health Care vs. Military Around the World [CHART]

What does the world spend more money on: war or health? In this deep look at military spending vs. health care spending by country, we uncover and compare spending in 46 countries around the world. Are health care expenditures a fraction of defense spending? By country, we’ll take a look at who’s prioritizing health.

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What Costs More? Not So Fast …

Often, the average American’s perception of violence is way off the mark. Many people suppose we are living in a more and more violent world, which only seems to get more violent over time. Meanwhile, violence on the whole is generally decreasing, both in terms of crime data and in terms of war. There are many reasons why the public has these false perceptions, one of which is the cognitive bias called “mean world syndrome.”

While it’s disappointing that there are still skirmishes more than a hundred years after the “war to end all wars” and decades after the invention of nuclear weapons, on the whole, especially within the scope of recent history, human beings are far less violent than they’ve ever been.

So it might shock many individuals that when looking at heath care vs. military spending by country, only one country spends more on the military than on health care: Israel. Besides Israel, only one other country, India, has an average amount of military spending that’s even close to the per-capita amount spent on health care. All others on our list, from the U.S. to China, spend much more per capita on their citizens’ health than war efforts. This may be a comforting thought.

For most, the gap between the numbers is fairly wide, with these 46 countries spending on average 5.86 times more on health care than on the military per capita.Malta and Ireland spend as much as 14 times more per capita on their citizens’ health.

Which Country Spends the Most on Health Care?

This may come as no shock, but the United States has the highest health care spending per capita. If you look at health care expenditure instead as a percentage of GDP, the Marshall Islands beats the United States, but only slightly.

How Much Does the U.S. Spend on Health Care?

The U.S. government spends $8,949 per capita on health care, and when you factor in individual costs, Americans spend about $10,586 per capita for health care. The federal government budgeted $1.1 trillion in 2018 for U.S. health care spending, with about $1 trillion going toward just Medicare and Medicaid. The biggest source of health spending, however, is private health insurance, which accounts for 34% of total health costs. It’s estimated that the U.S. as a whole spent $3.5 trillion on health care just in 2017. We spend a great deal more than most other countries, with 17.7% of GDP devoted to U.S. health care expenditures.

Which Country Spends the Most on the Military?

Again, while looking at per-capita numbers, it’s the United States by a pretty wide margin, with only Israel coming near our level of spending. But we only spend a fraction of our GDP on the military, about 3.2%. Other countries, like Eritrea and Libya, spend more than 15% of their GDPs on military functions.

How Much Does the US Spend on the Military?

The U.S. spends $1,985.50 per capita on military costs, a fraction of the country’s health care spending. When looking at military budget by country in 2018, the United States spent about $643.3 billion total. The only country that came close to U.S. military spending was China at $168.2 billion, around a fourth of our budget. Some suggest that the U.S. defense budget is actually even larger, with other portions of the budget going toward the military, too.

But the overall assertion that the U.S. spends more on the military than health care is completely inaccurate. Almost across the board, health care is more of a priority to the world’s leaders than military spending. U.S. budgets may change, but this fact is likely to hold true.

This has been another original infographic by PixlParade.com

2 Responses

  1. Chris

    This chart is a bit misleading. Certainly the US spends more on healthcare and related services than the military, both in terms of gross spending and as a percentage of GDP.

    For one, we’re comparing apples and oranges. Healthcare is mandatory spending whilst the military is discretionary. The former’s budget is not determined by the annual appropriations process; the amount allocated is based on previous law. The latter’s budget is requested by the President each year and then appropriated by Congress.

    Two, the amount spent per capita doesn’t reflect the actual access to health services. You can have the largest health care budget in the world, but if your eligibility rules exclude, say, two-thirds of the population, then budgetary size is a poor measure of national priorities.

  2. William

    This chart is wrong. The United States spends more on Military than Health Care. We have Weapons that can vaporize mega cites off the face of the map and No Cures for something simple like Cancer or Shingles. It’s time the United States started focusing more on Healthcare and less on weapons of mass destruction.


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