Healthcare Organization, Expenditures and Status in Norway

The healthcare system in Norway is built on the principal of equal access to services for all inhabitants regardless of their socioeconomic status or geographical location. This same principal is part of the country’s national healthcare legislation and related strategic reforms.


Like most European countries, the healthcare system is organized at 3 main levels:

  • The national or state level
  • The regional level
  • The local level

The system is considered to be semi-decentralized with policies being set centrally and implementation taking place at regional and local levels.

A current priority within the Norwegian healthcare sector is increasing the inter-sectorial cooperation across the different levels of government to increase the efficiency of the general healthcare system.

Areas of particular focus include:

  • Setting and aligning priorities
  • Increasing the usage of healthcare technology assessment
  • Increasing overall quality of care
  • Increasing patient safety

Another long term area of focus has been to strengthen the role of patients, through the establishment of various regulations dealing with issues like patient choice and patient complaint procedures.

Like most of its Scandinavian counterparts, Norway scores quite well on most healthcare parameters such as health status, infrastructure, access to medical services etc.

Despite the many efforts and progress made towards the goal of equality within the healthcare system, some level of social inequality still exists as evidenced by the OECD’s measure of 50 percent higher prevalence of long-term and chronic conditions among people of lower socioeconomic status.

Healthcare Status

Norway enjoys one of the highest performing healthcare systems in the world, surpassing many of its European counterparts in terms of healthcare indicators.

General population health is considered to be good with a life expectancy that is above the European average (i.e. 81 years of age) at almost 82 years of age.

When looking at the difference between overall life expectancy and healthy life years (HLY’s), the gap is smaller in Norway (about 70 years of age) than in other countries like Denmark (59.4 females, 63.6 males), Finland (58.3 females, 57.7 males) and Sweden (70.2 females, 71.7 males).

Infant mortality rates are at about 2.4 per 1.000 live births. Increases in life expectancy can be attributed to a variety of factors, one of which is the decline in mortality rates stemming from circulatory diseases, which is the major cause of death in Norway (31 percent).

The second largest cause of death can be attributed to malignant neoplasms which account for about 25.7 percent of deaths and the third is related to respiratory diseases at about 10.7 percent.

Obesity rates have increased moderately over the last few years and a recent forecast by the World Health Organization predicts that adulthood prevalence in 2020 will be 20 percent obesity among men and 13 percent among women.

Despite the increases in recent years, obesity rates in Norway currently remain as one of the lowest in all OECD countries.

Healthcare Expenditures

In 2014, Norwegian healthcare expenditures represented about 9.8 percent of the GDP. This is in line with the amounts spent in other Scandinavian countries like Sweden at 9.6 percent and Finland at 9.1 percent.

The only Scandinavian country that surpassed Norway in terms of healthcare spending is Denmark at 10.9 percent of the GDP.

Norway’s 9.8 percent expenditure on healthcare is especially impressive when one considers that the country has one of the highest GDP values per capita in the world.

Currently about, 86.5 percent of the total health expenditure stems from public sources like the national government, counties and municipalities. The latter 13.5 percent comes from private sources (employees, employers and out of pocket expenditures).

The highest amount of private expenditures go into the areas of pharmaceuticals and dental care.

Although the role of voluntary health insurance in Norway is still considered negligible, the use of private health insurance has increased during the last few years.

In terms of actual expenditure, curative specialist care accounts for about 46 percent of Norway’s total health expenditure, followed by long term nursing care at 27 percent. Additionally, about 11 percent is spent on pharmaceuticals, medical devices and other equipment for patients.


For further quantitative information on the Norwegian healthcare system and the macroeconomic climate, please look into our Business intelligence platform or order the TforG Deep Dive report for Norway containing volumes of 620 surgical procedures in 13 specialisms.