ILLUSTRATED BY LY NGO.
A few years back, I studied abroad in Australia. The weather was gorgeous and the Aussies’ work-hard-play-hard mentality was as clear as the ocean water at Bondi Beach. It didn’t take much to realize I felt happier halfway around the world. Granted, I was in college and didn’t have a whole lot to complain about in the first place — but partially, my happiness was due to the fact that Australia's culture made it a lot easier for me to think positive. We all recognize that happiness between countries varies, for many reasons. Now, a new list sheds light on exactly where people are feeling the most upbeat.
The Better Life Index compares the well-being of countries based on 11 topics deemed essential for happiness and overall quality of life: housing, income, jobs, community, education, environment, civic engagement, health, satisfaction, safety, and work-life balance. Published annually by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) — an international group founded to stimulate world trade and tackle economic and social challenges — this year’s index includes the 34 OECD nations as well as Brazil and Russia.
While Switzerland received a perfect 10 for life satisfaction, the OECD says the interactive index is designed for users to subjectively rate their own lives. So, if clean air is a more important factor to you than safety or work-life balance, the website allows you to scale each category (try it here). The folks over at 24/7 Wall St. used the index data over the past few years to create a list of what they deem the happiest countries in the world. Their top five? Switzerland, Norway, Canada, Denmark, and Austria.
Though the 11 factors of the index were chosen based on statistical criteria (from the OECD, Gallup World Polls, United Nations Statistics, and National Statistics offices) and the quality of data (i.e. cross-country comparability), the OECD points out that some countries and cultures may include additional well-being aspects, such as spirituality. (Read more on the methodology here). Researchers can point out specific happiness factors such as good health, money, and a strong work-life balance, but “well-being” can have a multitude of definitions across the globe.
Sadly, in the U.S., our satisfaction levels have dropped; we slipped from 14th to 17th place on the happiest-countries list since last year. Meanwhile, Australia is in 7th place...maybe it's time for me to move back?