Despite its financial woes Greece is still a better place than the UK to live but Japan has the highest life expectancy and Liechtenstein the highest incomes, a new report shows.

Overall, Norway has the best quality of life according to the United Nations Human Development index for 2010 that examined a range of issues including income, health, education, gender equality and political freedom.

In second place is Australia while coming in third is New Zealand and the US is in fourth place. But Britain is in 26 th place, down five places from last year and below Greece at 22. It is also way behind close neighbours including Ireland at fifth place, France at 14 and Spain at 20.

According to the results Britons can now expect to live for 79.8 years, earn an average annual income of £21,500 and go to school for an average of 15.9 years. This compares with a life expectancy of 81 in Norway and an average income of £36,121.

The tiny European stat of Liechtenstein has an average income of £49,758 and Japan’s life expectancy is 83.6 years, but Norway’s all-round performance gave it first place.

Zimbabwe came in last among the 169 nations studied that amount to 92% of the world’s population and was behind Mozambique, Burundi, Niger and Democratic Republic of Congo. The average Zimbabwean has a life expectancy of only 47 and an income of just £108.

In a poll carried out as part of the research, Britons gave their overall life satisfaction as 7.4 out of ten, lower than Mexico and Saudi Arabia, which came much lower in the index overall.

The authors of the index, now in its 20 th year, said that since 1970 there has been ‘dramatic progress’ in improving quality of life, especially in Asia. Lead writer Jeni Klugman said most countries are ‘healthier, more educated and wealthier and have more power to appoint and hold their leaders accountable than ever before’.

Across all countries surveyed average life expectancy has risen since 1970 from 59 to 70.

In addition, primary school enrolment has grown from 55 to 70% and per capita incomes have doubled to more than £6,000. But rich countries have grown faster than poor ones.

‘The Human Development Reports have changed the way we see the world. We have learned that while economic growth is very important, what ultimately matters is using national income to give all people a chance at a longer, healthier and more productive life,’ said UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon.