By Sue Kendall-Bilicki, OECD
“A healthy mind in a healthy body” – that recipe for happiness dates at least 2,000 years to Roman poet Juvenal, who in his tenth “Satire” listed these as the prerequisites for human happiness. On the face of it, the world has changed beyond imagining since then, but when it comes to human happiness, it turns out that things have hardly changed at all. When you ask people today what makes for a better life, good health, life satisfaction and education still come out on top, according to the Better Life Index choices of the more than 13 000 people who shared with us their own Better Life Index since its launch in May 2011.
So being healthy, happy and wise matter more to people around the world on average than how much money they earn, how big and well-equipped their home is, or how well their democracy works. But of course this is just an average, and the whole point of the Better Life Initiative is to get personal about what matters for a better life.
So what happens if we see how women’s view or the world compares with men’s? And how old are you before good health becomes more important than a good education? Looking at the distribution in the graphs below, you can see the answers to these questions.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the over-65s care more about their health and housing than about having a job, but what would make 35-44 year-olds care less about jobs than 15-34 year-olds? In fact the only people who care less about jobs than the 35-44 year-olds are those over 55 and approaching, or already in, retirement. But perhaps the 35-44 year-olds are busy with family and children since this group places more than average emphasis on work-life balance.
And as it turns out, it is not true that “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” — in fact when it comes to the really important things in life, men and women see things in pretty much the same way. For a wide range of issues such as life satisfaction, work-life balance, environment, jobs or housing, there is little or no difference in the importance you attach to them whether you are a man or woman. It turns out, though, that women care slightly less about income (might that somehow be connected with the fact that on average in OECD countries women still earn 16% less than men?), and more about their health and having a good social support network.
Does this ring any bells for you and your life? Or are the environment and personal safety more important to you than health or education? Create your own Better Life Index now and let us know what matters to you.