The OECD Better Life Index 2013

Posted on 2014/02/24

Researchers have a recent focus on the fact that happiness is not a single entity and we can divide it into separate elements. A previous research conducted by Kahneman (1999) also supports the fact that the universal judgment of happiness and satisfaction reported on a given moment in time is basically different than the overall pleasure of people’s emotional lives. In support of this research, another study by Lucas and Suh (1996) found that various forms of happiness and emotional well being are empirically different so it is not enough to study and measure happiness as an entity; instead separate forms of happiness must be analyzed. 

The key distinction evaluated by Kahneman (1999) was between international evaluative judgments and people's personal opinions of comfort and discomfort over time. Although, researchers agree on the fact that self-report measures of happiness are saturated to unreliable scales that vary with judgment and effect. Perhaps no measure of happiness is absolutely free of either of these elements, it is plausible that a universal measure of subjective well being taken at one point in time might be more heavily weighted with verdict, whereas reports of life satisfaction might be more saturated with affect.

All around the world, people are curious to know the happiness rankings of their countries and their fare in international league tables. There are various methodologies used to measure national happiness and subjective well being.

The Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development has recently contributed in the business of indexing countries with respect to level of life satisfaction and general happiness. This institution has released its survey (2013) covering 34 states including Russia and Brazil. Their campaign ‘Better Life Initiative’ measured 24 signs of happiness in 11 different areas of human life. Below is the list of member countries numbered according to their rank regarding highest quality of life in various fields of life including life satisfaction, community, health, education, safety, and environment:

1. Australia

2. Sweden

3. Canada

4. Norway

5. Switzerland

6. United States

7. Denmark

8. Netherlands

9. Iceland

10. UK

11. New Zealand

12. Finland

13. Austria

14. Luxembourg

15. Ireland

16. Belgium

17. Germany

18. France

19. Slovenia

20. Spain

21. Japan

22. Czech Republic

23. Italy

24. Israel

25. Poland

26. Slovak Republic

27. Korea

28. Portugal

29. Hungary

30. Greece

31. Estonia

32 Russia

33. Brazil

34. Chile

35. Mexico

36. Turkey

The organization also allows people to interact with their indexing results and rate the factors against each other to build distinctive rankings of happiness based upon which area is weighted more heavily. For this reason, the OECD conducted a Life Satisfaction Survey to measure how people evaluate the entirety of their lives and they were not simply asked how they were feeling at a given point in time. This study encouraged people to rate their own happiness and emotional well being on a scale of 0 to 10.

For a good chance of happy living move on to Australia since the country tops the list of the happiest countries worldwide. 84 percent of Aussies are happy with their lives and their country has maintained this rank for two years in row. Sweden ranked second with Swedes reporting higher satisfaction in categories i.e. education, work life balance, and environment. 82% of Canadians said that they are happy with their lives because of the positive experiences they have as compared with the negative ones and they ranked their country to be the third happiest country of the world. Health and life expectancy are among the most satisfactory areas of the lives of Canadians. People of Norway also enjoy a better life quality and 96% reported to be satisfied with the water quality and 86% of Norwegians lead happy lives with the average disposable net income being $31.459. Income, health, and community are the top areas of life, ranking Swiss people on number five among others in the list. This graph shows the top ten countries ranking with respect to leisure and personal care as stated by OECD Better Life Index Survey 2013.

(Image courtesy: RankingAmerica)

The 2013 OECD Better Life Initiative report in comparison to the 2012 analysis includes a detailed investigation in a bit to demonstrate policy makers to consider the happiness and subjective well being of people when making decisions. This also gives rise to the trend that policies should focus on the personal characterization of happiness of people, and how they perceive their subjective well being.