Iceland, Switzerland and Denmark have highest life satisfaction, new research shows

by Ray Clancy on July 6, 2015

A good lifestyle is what expats are seeking when they move abroad, however, a new global study has found that satisfaction scores have not recovered to pre-economic downturn levels in many countries.

More than half of the countries covered by the research from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have some way to go but all except Greece have shown an increase in GDP per capita.


Iceland, Switzerland and Denmark had the highest life satisfaction scores in 2014 at 7.5 out of 10

Iceland, Switzerland and Denmark had the highest life satisfaction scores in 2014 at 7.5 out of 10. While Switzerland’s life satisfaction score remains unchanged from 2007, and Denmark’s fell over the period, Iceland’s life satisfaction score increased from 6.9 in 2007 to 7.5 in 2014.

The study shows that people in Norway felt the safest at 89% while people in Greece were least likely to feel safe at 47%, while 76% of people in the UK felt safe walking alone at night in the area where they lived.

When it comes to being satisfied with family life the research found that people in Iceland were most satisfied at 95% while people in Korea were the least satisfied at 65%.

Overall countries with a lower GDP per capita had lower life satisfaction scores than countries with a higher GDP per capita. The average life satisfaction for the five countries reporting the lowest GDP per capita, Hungary, Poland, Chile, Mexico and Turkey, was just 5.7 out of 10 in 2007.

In contrast, the average score for the five countries reporting the highest GDP per capita, Luxembourg, Norway, Switzerland, the United States and Ireland, was 7.4 out of 10.

Of all the OECD countries, Poland shows the biggest increase in GDP per capita between 2007 and 2014, an increase of 45.1%. The report points out that during the global economic downturn, Poland experienced continuous growth, and increased its GDP per capita from 54% of the European Union average in 2007 to 65% in 2011.

However, life satisfaction scores remained broadly flat, at 5.9 out of 10 in 2007 and 5.8 out of 10 in 2014 and Poland’s economic growth has recently slowed and unemployment has increased as Poland’s largest trading partners within Europe recovered from the downturn and decreased demand for Polish goods.

Greece is the only OECD country to have experienced negative growth in GDP per capita between 2007 and 2014. Life satisfaction scores have also fallen over this period, from 6.6 to 4.8 out of 10, the lowest life satisfaction score among OECD countries.

The proportion of Greek people reporting that they trust the government in Greece fell from 38% to 13% between 2007 and 2012, while the proportion of people who were optimistic about the future was just 20% in 2011.

Chile saw the greatest improvement in life satisfaction scores from 5.7 to 6.7 out of 10 along with the third highest percentage increase in GDP per capita, an increase of 33.2% from US$16,709 to US$22,254. According to the report this increase may be a reflection of a number of different factors including a fall in unemployment.

Slovakia also saw a large improvement in life satisfaction scores from 5.3 to 6.1 out of 10, the fourth highest percentage increase in GDP. Slovakia reported one of the largest increases in real household disposable income in the OECD between 2007 and 2011 and the overall employment rate fell by 1% between 2007 and 2012.

At the same time, trust in government rose by 12% between 2006 and 2013; however, there is considerable inequality in Slovakia as the average net adjusted disposable income of the top 20% of the population is around $30,700 compared with around $7,900 for the bottom 20%.

‘The experiences of these selected countries illustrate that there are many factors contributing to their average life satisfaction scores, from the structure of the labour market and financial inequality to social freedoms and trust in political systems. Furthermore, they clearly show that GDP is only one of a number of measures which should be considered when assessing a country’s progress,’ the report concludes.



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