Despite a bleak economic situation, almost 80% of European adults still declare themselves generally satisfied with their lives, according to fresh data published by Eurostat ahead of the International Day of Happiness.
On a scale from zero to 10, nearly 80% of EU residents would rate their overall life satisfaction at 6.0 or above, Eurostat said in a statement released on Thursday (19 March).
The statistics, collected in 2013, may come as a surprise as previous surveys had shown declining levels of happiness and optimism as a result of the financial and economic crisis.
The happiest Europeans are to be found in the Nordic countries – Denmark, Finland and Sweden – where people rate their satisfaction at 8.0 on average. They are closely followed by Netherlands and Austria, at 7.8 overall satisfaction.
At the other end of the scale are Bulgarians (4.8) who were “by far the least satisfied” according to Eurostat, followed by Greeks, Cypriots, Hungarians and Portuguese (all 6.2).
The European data was released on Thursday (19 March), ahead of the International Day of Happiness, organised by the United Nations on 20 March.
“The pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal,” the UN said on a dedicated website, calling on member states, civil society organisations and individuals to celebrate the International Day of Happiness “in an appropriate manner”.
Life satisfaction is a multi-dimensional concept, Eurostat cautioned however, recalling that the notion is “very much shaped by various socio-demographic factors”.
“Health condition appears to be one main determining factor in life satisfaction, ahead of factors such as financial position, situation on the labour market or social relations,” the EU statistical agency said.
Unemployment, poverty and ‘the meaning of life’
Unsurprisingly, unemployed and inactive people were on average the least satisfied (5.8) compared to full-time employed (7.4) or people in education or training (7.8), who reported the highest rates of life satisfaction.
And more than half of severely materially deprived citizens reported a low level of life satisfaction, reflecting disturbing levels of deprivation in the EU countries worst hit by the economic crisis.
Younger people, as well as couples with children, tended to report higher degrees of life satisfaction, the Eurostat report further showed.
There was no noticeable difference between men and women, except for one metric. Women tend to report slightly higher levels when it comes to “meaning of life”, regardless of age or relative poverty.
“One could therefore conclude that the evaluative part of subjective well-being in a way summarises concrete domain specific satisfactions, while the question of a purpose or meaning in life is answered on a more – even if not total – abstract level,” Eurostat commented.
In 2007, the European Commission decided to develop a new approach to measuring well-being and quality of life, beyond conventional economic measures like GDP.
A world statistics forum bringing together major international organisations ranging from the UN and EU to the Islamic Conference has decided to launch a global project to measure societal progress in individual countries.
The commitment was outlined in the Istanbul Declaration of 30 June 2007, at the close of the second OECD World Forum on Statistics, Knowledge and Policy.
Key indicators to assess progress would include health, education, environment, employment, productivity and purchasing power.
In Europe, well-being and quality of life linked to standard of living, happiness, freedom and environmental health, are considered essential to economics and political science.
>> Read our LinksDossier: Quality of Life
- Press release: How satisfied are people with their lives in the European Union? (19 March 2015)
- Quality of life in Europe - facts and views - overall life satisfaction
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