Can it be measured by average life-satisfaction of citizens?

Ruut Veenhoven
Published in German in: Noll, H-H (ed) Sozialberichterstattung in Deutschland. Konzepte, Methoden und Ergebnisse fuer Lebensbereiche und Bevolkerungsgruppen', Juventa 1997, Weinheim, Germany, ISBN 3-7799-0396-2, pp 267-293

The livability of a nation is the degree to which the living-conditions it provides fit with the needs of its citizens. Livability can be measured by estimating the quality of living conditions (presumed livability) and by assessing how well people thrive (apparent livability). This paper explores the latter approach, and assesses thriving by average life-satisfaction.
Surveys in 28 nations around 1980 show marked differences in life-satisfaction across nations. The differences cannot be attributed to measurement error.
Two validity-tests are performed. Congruent validity is checked by assessing correspondence with other indicators of apparent livability. Average life-satisfaction appears to be closely related to mental distress and life-expectancy, but not with suicide-rate. Together these indicators of the same explain 37% of the difference in life-satisfaction. Concurrent validity is estimated by correspondence with commonly presumed livability. Life-satisfaction appears to be higher in the nations that provide most material comfort, social equality, political freedom and assess to knowledge. Together these latter nation-characteristics explain 77% of the variation in life-satisfaction.

Full text in German