Non-stop sunshine, an incredibly beautiful ocean, one of the highest standards of living in the developed world and the Koala are just a few possible reasons why Australians are the happiest people in the world, at least according to the annual Better Life Index survey authored by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. This is the third time in a row the study has ruled Australia as the happiest country in the world, while the US and Great Britain came in at sixth, and tenth respectively. Sweden and Canada were ranked as second and third, respectively, in the list.
So why are Australians the happiest people in the world, aside from obvious reasons (sunny beaches can be found all over the world after all.... almost)? First of all, these kind of surveys should always be taken lightly, as they aren't by far very accurate. Still, the results are most interesting, and the Australian economy looks like it weighs a lot when factoring happiness.
The minimum wage in Australia is $16/hour, almost double that in the US, and while most of the developed world had to battle austerity measures, the land down under witnessed its 21st consecutive year of economic growth, driven by raw goods demand. Unemployment, at 5.5 percent, is among the lowest of the OECD nation and the country's credit rating has been given a solid AAA by all three of the major credit ratings agencies. In fact, not one single Australian bank collapsed in a long time, while in the rest of the world the recession plummeted multi-billion banks into bankrupcy causing a domino-effect of devastating economy consequences.
It's not all about the money. A number of studies have shown in the past that from a certain threshold onward, income isn't directly correlated to well-being and happiness anymore. For the survey, 11 different parameters were assessed, including economic, health, environmental, and lifestyle parameters that are reckoned to contribute to "happiness".
Australia has a great health care system, one of the lowest crime rates in the developed world, civic engagement and a longer-than-life expectancy for its populace, which when all added up serve to contribute to the country's general high score. Australians work hard, though, to maintain their lifestyle, and don't seem to mind it one bit. Surprised, aren't you? One in seven Australian workers puts in more than 50 hours a week, far in excess of the OECD norm.
Australian ZME Science readers, is this survey relevant? Do share your thoughts by commenting below this post.