Scandinavian countries the happiest in the world

by Ray Clancy on May 9, 2014

People want to know how where they live stacks up on the happiness scale compared to other countries in the world, according to a global think tank which has produced an index to measure happiness and wellbeing.

The Better Life Index compares lives across 36 countries, based on 11 topics; housing, income, jobs, community, education, environment, governance, health, life satisfaction, safety, and work-life balance.

Scandinavia rants highest

Scandinavia ranks highest on the Better Life Index

The latest edition of the index from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that users in the United Kingdom and Germany rate life satisfaction as their top priority, while those in France see health as more important.

Users in all three countries rate income as a much less important driver of wellbeing. According to the OECD report, money, while it cannot buy happiness, is an important means to achieving higher living standards.

In Japan people worry most about safety, while Australians want a good work-life balance. People in Latin America strive for a better education, while Danes just want to be happy.

When it comes to happiness, the Swiss top the league table, followed by people living in Norway and then Denmark. The rest of the top 10 comprises Canada, Iceland, Austria, Sweden, Mexico, Finland and the Netherlands.

Popular countries with expats such as France and Spain come in at 22 and 24 respectively, just above Korea, Slovenia and Japan. The United States and the UK also come in well down the list at 17 and 19.

The researchers found that there was only a small difference between the happiness levels of men and women. In Australia, for example, women at 7.5 are happier than the men who report a 7.2 on the scale, which is still above the international average. In Italy, men are happier than women with a score of 6.2 compared to 5.9.

‘People want to understand how their country compares to others. This year’s Better Life Index has evolved to reveal what’s most important to users. This represents an important potential new source of information,’ said OECD secretary general Angel Gurría.

Launched in 2011, the index focuses on the aspects of life that matter to people and that shape their quality of life. The initiative comprises a set of regularly updated wellbeing indicators.

It says that happiness or subjective wellbeing can be measured in terms of life satisfaction, the presence of positive experiences and feelings, and the absence of negative experiences and feelings.

‘Such measures, while subjective, are a useful complement to objective data to compare the quality of life across countries. Life satisfaction measures how people evaluate their life as a whole rather than their current feelings. It captures a reflective assessment of which life circumstances and conditions are important for subjective wellbeing,’ said the OECD.

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