Reasons to be cheerful ....

We all know what makes us feel better. US singer Pharrell’s invitation to “Clap along if you know what happiness is to you” in his hit song Happy has sparked countless video responses from around the world featuring everything from dancing children to happy dogs. But clapping along to Pharrell does not bring us any closer to sharing our personal recipe for wellbeing. So what (apart from clapping along to happy songs) makes our lives better?

The OECD Better Life Index asks just that question by inviting people to rate 11 dimensions of well-being according to the importance they give them in life. Instead of just looking at the usual economic factors such as income, jobs and housing the Better Life Index also includes environment, community, work-life balance, personal security, education, health, civic engagement and the level of satisfaction with life. The Index measures each country’s performance on all of the topics, but you can also create your own personal picture of what matters for well-being by ranking the topics according to their importance to you.

When you create and share your own Better Life Index, you provide valuable information on what individual people, not politicians, think is most important for well-being around the world. So far, more than 60 000 people have shared their view on what makes for a better life since the Better Life Index was launched in 2011.



So what is the magic answer? Overall, according to the users of the Better Life Index the most important factor for a better life is (drumroll please): Health! Life Satisfaction and Education come in close behind. But when you look at users’ choices in more detail, there are differences depending on where you come from, how old you are, and sometimes whether you are a man or a woman. For example, people in Japan who submitted their index think personal security is the top priority for well-being, whereas users in Australia say it is having a good balance between work and personal life, and those in Latin America put education first.

In many cases, people from very different parts of the world make very similar choices. For example, users in Denmark, Germany, South Africa and Switzerland all rank life satisfaction as critical for a better life, suggesting that you do not need to be from the same region or culture to have the same ideas about happiness.

What people rank as important to improve their lives often mirrors their country’s performance in the various topics measured by the Better Life Index. However, this is not always the case. In Denmark and Switzerland, people’s high ranking of life satisfaction goes hand in hand with their countries’ good performance in this dimension of the Better Life Index. Australia ranks highly in many measures of well-being in the Better Life Index, but when it comes to work-life balance, the topic rated most highly by users, more than 14% of Australian employees work for more than 50 hours per week, higher than the OECD average of almost 9%.

Want to know what people in your country ranked as most important for wellbeing, or how your choices compare with people in other countries? Take a look at the Better Life Index interactive map, where you can compare what others believe is important for well-being around the world and see how many people have made their voices heard in each country. In fact, we need your help! We need more people to share their wellbeing choices, so that we can continue to see what people think will improve their lives. This will help us continue the shift in moving beyond just GDP, and support the many wellbeing initiatives already under way from governments and other actors. Don’t just “clap if you know what happiness is to you”, tell us by creating your own Better Life Index and make your voice heard.


Other well-being initiatives:

World Happiness report (United Nations)

Beyond GDP (European Union)

Measuring National Well-Being (United Kingdom)

Measure of America (United States)

Australian National Development Index (Australia)

Oxfam Humankind Index 

Happy City

Related links:

How's Life? 2013

Why engage citizens in wellbeing data? 


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