Measuring feelings can be very subjective, but is nonetheless a useful complement to more objective data when comparing quality of life across countries. Subjective data can provide a personal evaluation of an individual’s health, education, income, personal fulfillment and social conditions. Surveys, in particular, are used to measure life satisfaction and happiness.
Life satisfaction measures how people evaluate their life as a whole rather than their current feelings. It captures a reflective assessment of which life circumstances and conditions are important for subjective well-being. When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, people across the OECD gave it a 6.6 grade. Life satisfaction is not evenly shared across the OECD however. Some countries – Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Portugal, and Turkey – have a relatively low level of overall life satisfaction, with average scores of less than 5.5. At the other end of the scale, scores were higher than 7.5 in Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland. There is little difference in life satisfaction levels between men (6.6) and women (6.7) across OECD countries. Education levels do, however, strongly influence subjective well-being. Whereas people who have only completed primary education across OECD countries have a life satisfaction level of 6.2, this score reaches 7.1 for people with tertiary education.
Happiness, or subjective well-being, is also measured by the presence of positive experiences and feelings such as enjoyment and pride in accomplishment, and/or the absence of negative experiences and feelings such as pain, worry or sadness. Across OECD countries, 80% of people reported having more positive experiences in an average day than negative experiences. Denmark, Iceland and Japan feel the most positive in the OECD area, while Turkey, Estonia and Hungary show lower levels of happiness.