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People in Nordic region most happy in EU

20 November 2008

BRUSSELS – A new quality-of-life survey released Wednesday reports that the happiest Europeans are the Danes and Finns while citizens from Hungary and Bulgaria are the least happy.

The findings of a representative survey of 30,000 EU citizens in 27 European Union member states conducted between September 2007 and February 2008 showed that money, health and social environment contribute greatly to levels of satisfaction.

Germans, Czechs and Slovaks lie in the happy medium, while the French, British and Spanish report 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 said.

In the Nordic countries people on different income levels reported similar levels of happiness, says Mikulic.

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 which joined the EU after 2004, fewer people can afford basic necessities 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 research team member Robert Anderson. This is crucial, since family and health are considered the greatest factors for happiness.

Life quality is generally rated higher within the private sphere than the social context. Many Europeans complain about air pollution and noise, ethnic tensions or criminality.

Despite all the problems cited, most participants in the survey were optimistic about the future. Germans were exceptionally positive, while Hungary was the only country dominated by pessimists.

The EU foundation plans to release a full evaluation of the survey in March, comparing the data to the initial study undertaken in 2003.

[dpa / Expatica]