People in Denmark have highest life satisfaction

by Ray Clancy on March 31, 2014

Europeans tend to be quite satisfied with life in general but there are clear regional differences with people living in Nordic countries and western and southern Europe happier than those living in the Baltics, central Europe and the Balkans.

The research by the European Commission measures life satisfaction on a scale from one which is very dissatisfied to 10 which is very satisfied and overall the average was 7.1.


Life satisfaction was highest in Nordic countries wtih Denmark at the top and also notably high in Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Austria

It was highest in the Nordic countries which Denmark top with 8.5 and also notably high in Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Austria, and lowest in Bulgaria and Hungary.

Greece, Latvia, Estonia, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic also show quite low levels of satisfaction. However, the report points out that in most countries, with the exception of Bulgaria and Hungary, average levels of life satisfaction were higher than six, i.e. satisfied rather than dissatisfied.

Apart from the Nordic countries, people in western and southern Europe, with the exception of Greece, tend to be more satisfied with their lives than people in the Baltic countries, central Europe and the Balkans.

‘While this gap deserves more systematic investigation, one cannot entirely ignore economic and historical factors. Most of the countries in this considerably less satisfied group were in the near past, and still are characterised by a low level of income,’ the report explains.

‘Possibly also important is the fact that a significant part of the population, the older generations, had experienced lasting and dramatic reversals in the economic, social, welfare and political circumstances of their lives,’ it adds.

The research says that income has an impact on life satisfaction. But while the highest earners tend to be more satisfied with their lives than those with the lowest incomes, even people in the lowest income quartile tend to be more satisfied with their lives than not.

‘The impact of income on life satisfaction tends to be more significant as the overall levels of life satisfaction of a society decrease. Thus, when comparing countries, the income related gap between economic strata regarding life satisfaction increases as the overall level for a country gets lower,’ the report says.

Other demographic and socioeconomic factors such as age, educational attainment, household type and employment status also play a significant role and the research, which is carried out regularly, found a notable age related pattern. Life satisfaction for middle aged people is consistently lower than that of younger and older people, except in some Eastern European countries.

The European financial crisis, which occurred between the most recent and previous surveys, does not seem to have had a noticeable effect but the report says this is to be expected, since life satisfaction involves assessing one’s entire life and is therefore only moderately influenced by present economic circumstances.

Satisfaction in most countries which were at or over the average in 2007 decreased slightly but in Austria, one of the exceptions, it rose considerably. This was, however, counterbalanced by rises in satisfaction in most countries where it was below the European average in 2007 with the exception of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece and Slovakia.

The research also shows that as a general rule, those with high incomes tend to be more satisfied with their lives. However, even people in the lowest income quartile tend to be more satisfied with their lives than not, reporting an average of more than five, except in Bulgaria. This income related gap varies significantly between countries. In Bulgaria there is a difference of over two points in the scale is observed differences of a similar order of magnitude are observed in all other countries where the overall life satisfaction level is relatively low.

While there is no difference, on average, in the level of life satisfaction of men and women, age does seem to play a determinant role. Life satisfaction consistently decreases with age until the age of 65, after which it increases again, sometimes leading to levels of life satisfaction for senior citizens similar to or even exceeding those of the youngest generation.

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