How Long and Happy People Live

Ruut Veenhoven
Social Indicators Research, 2005, vol. 71, pp. 61-86

Quality-of-life in nations can be measured by how long and happy people live. This is assessed by combining data on life expectancy drawn from civil registration with survey data on subjective enjoyment of life as a whole. This measure of 'apparent' quality-of-life is a good alternative to current indexes of 'assumed' quality-of-life such as the Human Development Index.
Data are available for 67 nations in the 1990s. The number of Happy-Life-Years varies considerably across nations. Switzerland is at the top with 63.0 years and Moldavia at the bottom with 20.5 years. China is in the middle with an average of 46.7. Happy lifetime has risen considerably in advanced nations over the last decade.
People live longer and happier in nations characterised by economic affluence, freedom and justice. Together these three societal qualities explain 66% of the cross-national variance in Happy-Life-Years. Income equality and generous social security do not appear to be required for a long and happy life.

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