Money is not everything, EU residents say
A new study shows that other factors, such as one’s social life and health, also contribute greatly to levels of satisfaction.
Brussels -- Money breeds contentment but greater wealth does not automatically make people happier, according to a quality-of-life survey conducted in the 27 European Union member states.
The study, released on Wednesday, shows that other factors, such as one’s social life and health, also contribute greatly to levels of satisfaction.
The happiest Europeans are the Danes and Finns, according to the findings of a representative survey of 30,000 EU citizens. At the other end of the scale, Hungary and Bulgaria had the lowest satisfaction rates.
Germans, Czechs and Slovaks lie at what might be called the happy medium, while the French, British and Spanish reported above-average satisfaction with their lot in life. In Poland, Austria and especially in Italy, people had more to grumble about.
"Countries with high incomes do very well in terms of satisfaction in life," said Branislav Mikulic of the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound).
However, happiness and satisfaction didn't rise in line with the bank balance: "Once a certain level of happiness has been reached, money no longer plays a great role in improving quality of life," he added.
As an example, Mikulic cited the Nordic countries, where people on different income levels reported similar levels of happiness.
The Danes, Finns, Swedes and Dutch, all of whom scored at the top of the happiness index, considered tensions between rich and poor to be negligible in their respective countries. In Germany, France, Poland and Austria, the gap between rich and poor was more keenly felt.
In the countries that joined the EU after 2004, fewer people can afford even the simple things in life. In most of the new EU states, more than 15 percent of respondents said they had too little money to heat their home or eat a warm meal with fish or meat every other day. Poorer people also faced a tougher family life.
The survey reveals that many EU citizens feel ill. "Not many people in the EU judge their state of health as good," said Robert Anderson, of the research team. This is crucial, since family and health are considered the greatest factors for happiness.
Quality of life is generally rated higher within the private sphere: Many Europeans complain about air pollution and noise, ethnic tensions and crime.
Despite the problems cited, most participants in the survey, conducted between September 2007 and February 2008, were optimistic about the future. Germans were exceptionally positive, while Hungary was the only country dominated by pessimists.
In March, the EU foundation plans to release a full evaluation of the survey, comparing the data to the initial study undertaken in 2003.