Global Index Shows Which Countries Are The Happiest

Global Index Shows Which Countries Are The Happiest
Arts & Culture

The OECD's floral motif graphics display the complex mix of factors that go into an emotionally successful country.

Rachel Pincus
  • 14 may 2014

What does it take to have a truly happy lifestyle? Definitions differ among people, and it’s about time that we had a happiness index that takes into account the varying values of people using it. The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), which has helped governments design better policies for their citizens since 1961, has just unveiled a new website that allows you to weight quality-of-life factors in various countries in precisely this way, breaking down the data it’s collected on its 34 member countries into factors and sub-factors that you can explore using a nifty new chart system. Your personal idea of the Better Life Index might include any prioritized mixture of Housing, Income, Jobs, Community, Education, Environment, Civic Engagement, Health, Life Satisfaction, Safety, and Work-Life Balance.


OECD’s website has a global audience, and each country values a slightly different mix of things. Importantly, they haven’t even assigned rankings to each country, which forces you to look at general trends instead of judging one country to be the best based on its victory by a very narrow margin. Even if you decide to heavily weigh a single category, the chart design keeps you aware of your choice by enlarging and highlighting a color coded ‘petal’ on its ‘flower’ logo.

Apparently, the creation of this chart was actually the product of reversing the equation of what is thought to contribute to a country’s present conditions: they wished, the authors write in the FAQ, to discover “whether views on what matters most in life depend on living circumstances and satisfaction with the 11 topics of well-being.” If a country prioritizes health care, is that always reflected in better hospitals?

There are limitations to this system, which the OECD acknowledges in its FAQ for the chart. A system like this will inherently generalize about large groups of people, but due to its international perspective, the OECD only looks at populations from a fly-over, international perspective and doesn’t have the data to determine much about inequality. Regional inequality is a huge issue, especially in large countries like the U.S., and most of it gets lost in the averaging out of data from different areas.


The new Better Life Index chart was designed and created by Moritz Stefaner, Frank Rausch, Jonas Leist, Marcus Paeschke, Dominikus Baur and Timm Kekeritz for Raureif GmbH, Berlin. Despite its simplifications, it’s fun to use whether you’re an individual fantasizing about living in Scandinavia, with its substantial social safety net, or a public policy official looking to make some concrete change. Also for a new perspective, check out the priorities of people around the world.

OECD Better Life Index
[h/t] Mikesclark

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