OECD Bet­ter Life In­dex: The

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The Bet­ter Life In­dex rates the 34 OECD mem­ber na­tions, as well as Brazil and the Rus­sian Fed­er­a­tion, on 22 vari­ables that con­trib­ute to over­all well-be­ing, in­clud­ing in­come, ed­u­ca­tion, hous­ing, health, and life sat­is­fac­tion. 24/7 Wall St. re­viewed the ten coun­tries with the high­est life sat­is­fac­tion score.

A healthy job mar­ket is one of the most im­por­tant fac­tors con­tribut­ing to higher life eval­u­a­tions. Em­ploy­ment rates — the per­cent­age of the work­ing-age pop­u­la­tion that is em­ployed — were higher in each of the ten coun­tries with the high­est life sat­is­fac­tion score than the av­er­age em­ploy­ment rate for the coun­tries re­viewed.

Con­versely, coun­tries with rel­a­tively un­healthy job mar­kets had lower life sat­is­fac­tion scores. Un­em­ploy­ment rates were above 8.5% in seven of the ten least happy coun­tries, while they were lower than 7% in all but two of the hap­pi­est coun­tries.

Healthy labour mar­kets not only help pro­mote job se­cu­rity, but also they can con­trib­ute to work­ers’ men­tal health. Rom­ina Boarini, head of well-be­ing and progress mea­sure­ment in the OECD’s statis­tics di­vi­sion, noted that, “un­em­ploy­ment and fear of job loss are detri­men­tal to [a worker’s] men­tal health.”

Feel­ing con­nected to one’s com­mu­nity is an­other fac­tor in a coun­try’s hap­pi­ness. In all but one of the hap­pi­est coun­tries, at least 90% of re­spon­dents re­ported hav­ing a qual­ity sup­port net­work that they could rely on in times of need. “Peo­ple are so­cial crea­tures and get plea­sure from spend­ing time with oth­ers,” Boarini said.

Good per­sonal health, too, can con­trib­ute to a per­son’s hap­pi­ness. In New Zealand, tied for the sev­enth hap­pi­est coun­try, 90% of peo­ple sur­veyed con­sid­ered them­selves in good health, the high­est pro­por­tion of all coun­tries re­viewed. Ad­di­tion­ally, in all but one of the hap­pi­est coun­tries, more than 70% of re­spon­dents said they were in good health, all higher than the 36 coun­try av­er­age of 68% of peo­ple in coun­tries re­viewed.

In the United States, life sat­is­fac­tion re­bounded af­ter two years of fall­ing in the rank­ings, largely due to the coun­try’s im­prov­ing labour mar­ket. De­spite the re­ces­sion eras­ing a ma­jor­ity of wealth in the coun­try, house­holds had an av­er­age net worth of $146,000, by far the most among coun­tries re­viewed. Boarini warned that U.S. life sat­is­fac­tion may be mis­lead­ing, how­ever, as the data are based on a small sam­ple. In pre­vi­ous years, lower life sat­is­fac­tion in the U.S. was at­trib­uted to in­come in­equal­ity. “We do know the more un­equally the in­come is dis­trib­uted, the lower the life sat­is­fac­tion.” In fact, the Gini co­ef­fi­cient, a mea­sure of in­come in­equal­ity, has wors­ened in the U.S. in re­cent years. The U.S. still has one of the worst Gini co­ef­fi­cients in the OECD.

To de­ter­mine the hap­pi­est coun­tries in the world, 24/7 Wall St. re­viewed the coun­tries that re­ceived the high­est life sat­is­fac­tion scores from the OECD Bet­ter Life In­dex. The OECD rated coun­tries on eleven cat­e­gories: hous­ing, in­come, jobs, com­mu­nity, ed­u­ca­tion, en­vi­ron­ment, civic en­gage­ment, health, safety, work-life bal­ance, and life sat­is­fac­tion. We used the life sat­is­fac­tion in­dex for the rank­ing. Ad­di­tion­ally, we ex­am­ined un­em­ploy­ment rates for 2013 from the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund.

Th­ese are the hap­pi­est coun­tries in the world.

Life sat­is­fac­tion score: 7.5 (tied-the high­est) Self-re­ported good health: 72.0% (15th high­est) Pct. with qual­ity sup­port net­work: 95.0% (4th high­est) Dis­pos­able in­come: $26,491 (15th high­est) Life ex­pectancy: 80.1 years (12th low­est)

While hav­ing a job of­ten helps con­trib­ute to hap­pi­ness by cre­at­ing a sta­ble fi­nan­cial en­vi­ron­ment for fam­i­lies and in­di­vid­u­als, bal­anc­ing work with leisure can also be crit­i­cal to find­ing hap­pi­ness. In Den­mark, 73% of the work­force was em­ployed, higher than the OECD av­er­age em­ploy­ment rate. Per­haps more im­por­tant, though, the Danes still found time to de­vote more than 16 hours each day to leisure and per­sonal care ac­tiv­i­ties, which in­clude sleep­ing, so­cial­is­ing, and watch­ing tele­vi­sion. This was the most time de­voted to such ac­tiv­i­ties among coun­tries re­viewed. As in other coun­tries re­port­ing high lev­els of hap­pi­ness, as many as 95% of Dan­ish re­spon­dents had a qual­ity sup­port net­work, the fourth high­est pro­por­tion among coun­tries mea­sured by the OECD. Den­mark res­i­dents are also well ed­u­cated, hav­ing spent an av­er­age of 19.4 years in school, the third high­est among coun­tries re­viewed.

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