The happiest place on Earth is....Australia
Kangaroo hops through the outback landscape June 7, 2005 near Marree, Australia.
June 28th, 2011
03:45 PM ET

The happiest place on Earth is....Australia

By , Global Post

Australians are the happiest people in the world — overall — according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and its new Better Life Initiative index.

In a comparison of people in the 34 OECD member countries, using 11 indicators — such as income, education and health — weighted equally, the OECD's Better Life Initiative found that Australians were the most satisfied with their lives.

In order, the next 9 happiest countries were: Canada, Sweden, New Zealand, Norway, Denmark, the U.S., Switzerland, Finland and the Netherlands.

Along with the 11 factors the OECD associates with a "good life," the index takes into consideration citizens' answers to quality-of-life questions like, “How satisfied are you with your life?” “How would you describe your health?” and “Do you know someone you could turn to in a time of need?”

However, adhering to the adage that what makes one person happy may make another miserable, the OECD has also provided a new tool that allows the user to tweak criteria to fit their own stage of life.

The interactive tool, called Your Better Life Index, allows the user "to see how countries perform according to the importance you give to each of the 11 topics — like education, environment, and so on — that contribute to well-being in OECD countries."

Read: Daily Show tackles Greece and Goldman.

The index will eventually include the OECD's six partner countries (Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Russia and South Africa), add data, and incorporate new indicators, it says.

Meantime, according to the OECD's default weighting of indicators, Australians are on top of the world when it comes to happiness.


  • Three-quarters of Australians were satisfied with their lives, with 83 percent saying they expected to be satisfied in five years.
  • About 85 percent of Australians said they were in good health.
  • At least 71 percent felt well-served by their government (voter turnout, at 95 percent of those registered, is the highest in the study),
  • Australians are the sixth-highest scoring in reading, but most importantly, the gap between high performing and low performing children is exceptionally small.
  • Life expectancy, at 81.5 years, is the fourth-highest among member nations.
  • Some 71 percent of Australian women with school age children are in the workforce, and unlike many countries in the study, many of them are able to work full-time.
  • Relatively few Australians work extremely long hours.
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Topics: Culture • East Asia

soundoff (43 Responses)
  1. j. von hettlingen

    It proves that wealth can't buy everything. According to the list of the world's wealthiest countries, based on GDP/per capita conducted by the IMF 2010, Australia ranks 10, Norway 4, USA 7, Switzerland 8 and the Netherlands 9.
    The wealthiest nations are – Qatar 1, followed by Luxemburg 2, Singapore 3 , Brunei 5 and the United Arab Emirates 6.
    The other happy nations ranked according to the IMF – Canada 12, Sweden 14, New Zealand 32, Denmark 17, Finland 22.

    June 28, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Reply
    • Sean

      That's could be do to those countries have so many poor people that are not as happy (and only a very small percentage of rich and super rich) vs other countries that have a lot of "middle class", such that the overall voting numbers appear to say that "wealth doesn't bring happiness".

      Face it, in this world wealth = the greatest chance of finding happiness, but ultimately happiness is a state of mind. Of course removing stress of credit card bills, mortgages and buying something nice for yourself should help make finding happiness easier.

      June 29, 2011 at 9:32 am | Reply
      • Ames

        Actually it comes down to having enough. Nobody wants to be hungry, but if you are compelled to go for a 5th plate at the buffet you have a problem. The same goes for the uber-rich. How much is enough? Does one person's incremental happiness of being worth $5B instead of $1B justify grinding hundreds of families into financial ruin? Having traveled a bit, many around the world have a more natural instinct towards moderation that the American success cult "winner takes all" mentality disparages.

        June 29, 2011 at 9:47 am |
    • oldboldgold

      The happy countries all have a solid middle class. That is a hopeful class. All the rich people I have met (work with them) are dissatisfied people... nothing makes them secure, satisfied, or content. Uber poor have a hard time of it, but still more likely to be happy than the uber rich. Why do people think they want to be uber rich? Because they don't realize how sick you have to be to push that hard for money. Yes, we need the basics and little extra for fun. That is all money can buy you, and it is good. Happiness comes from inside and from good relationships with other human beings.

      June 30, 2011 at 4:46 am | Reply
  2. An OzGuy

    The reason that Australia has a 95% voter turnout is that voting is compulsory. Yes, that's right, if you are an Australian citizen, you are required by law to vote in every election.

    June 28, 2011 at 8:33 pm | Reply
    • Laura

      What does that have to do with them being happy?

      June 29, 2011 at 9:19 am | Reply
      • Rick

        If the population as a whole is regularly invested in it's elections it indicates they are content with their political system. But if they are forced to vote it should not count as an indicator of happiness as the OP correctly points out.

        June 29, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
      • oldboldgold

        It counts because they have to own their country. They all voted, they have a consensus.

        June 30, 2011 at 4:48 am |
    • DB Saint

      ..and you see that as a problem? It should be mandatory here in the US.

      June 29, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Reply
      • jldub

        Lots of luck with that happening. The powers that be are perfectly happy with the low voter turnout. Have the few decide for the many.

        June 29, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
      • Zeppelin

        He doesn't see it as a problem at all... which words lead you to think he's speaking disparagingly about the voting system?

        I agree with you that voting should be compulsory. Lack of interest on behalf of the citizens is what enables ridiculous institutions, such as the electoral college, to exist.

        June 29, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
      • what1ever

        Why should voting be compulsory? There are a lot of ignorant people out there, and many who don't follow the news AT ALL. What would be served by having them go to the ballot box to vote randomly? Actually, I can't think of one reason that mandatory voting would be a remotely good idea. However, I can think of dozens of reasons that it would be a TERRIBLE idea.

        June 30, 2011 at 4:26 am |
  3. bruce

    The top 10 seem to have in common, at least, the following: relatively high per capita income coupled with relatively even income distribution, progressive societies, high degrees of individual freedom, advanced education levels, temperate climates, and political stability.

    June 29, 2011 at 8:02 am | Reply
    • PLG

      If you think Canada, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland have temperate climates, then I doubt you've ever been to any of them outside of August.

      June 29, 2011 at 11:55 am | Reply
      • cc

        actually canada is only cold from january- march. we have a nice spring and fall ....and summers are super hot here from middle of may til mid september.

        June 29, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
      • Luna

        Norway has a temperate climate (because of the north atlantic current).. It's not a frozen tundra, thats an ignorant myth. It highly depends on where in Norway you live. Most Norwegians live down south. Just because some countries are far north does not mean they are very cold.

        June 29, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
    • Rick

      And all but the USA have affordable medical services run by the government.

      June 29, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Reply
      • Lance

        So does Zimbabwe. So does Syria. Doesn't make them happy places, does it?

        June 29, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
    • Just another reader

      Temeprate climate is a miss, for the northern states.....but that reminds me isn't Findland the one with the highest suicides related to that winter depression state of mind? Just a few months ago CNN reported on seasonal depression and Findland having the highest suicide rate related to depression, which they are now connecting to the winter months.

      Maybe we need to do another study, publish it in 6 months, and get people to talking about it.

      June 29, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Reply
  4. Jimbo

    Legalize marijuana in the US and we'll be number 1.

    June 29, 2011 at 9:44 am | Reply
    • Morris

      No, you would not necessarily be happy. You would be drugged and high. This might offer a temporary escape from unhappiness or trouble but it certainly would not address a root problem.

      June 29, 2011 at 10:21 am | Reply
      • JB

        Thats a common misunderstanding by Jimbo. People who think legalizing drugs would be a good are totally idiotic thinking it would solve all their problems. What a bunch of morons. If you have to do drugs to make your life mean anything, you would be better off 6 feet under. Jimbo do use the favor and be done with it.

        June 29, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • oldboldgold

      I don't think people who smoke marijuana realize how boring they are. Went to a few of those parties when young... didn't smoke but watched everyone be stoned. Cooool, man. Sixtieth repeat and I went past boring to disgusted! They were all inside their own heads! Boring at best.

      June 30, 2011 at 4:52 am | Reply
  5. Reality

    This survey in no way states that Australians are the happiest people in the world, just in the OECD. There are 34 countries in the OECD, and over 200 in the world.

    June 29, 2011 at 10:22 am | Reply
  6. Jah

    That Roo has some big stones

    June 29, 2011 at 10:29 am | Reply
    • Emeljay

      You made me look.

      June 29, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Reply
    • Kim

      You made me LOL in class!

      June 29, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Reply
  7. amma maw

    I agree with Reality. This was obviously a very narrow study.Bhutan is always at or near the top of the happiest people in the world when all countries are considered.

    June 29, 2011 at 10:51 am | Reply
  8. Emigdio

    I thought they were opening a disneyland in Australia.

    June 29, 2011 at 10:54 am | Reply
  9. sosafesosaneandsosecure

    you know the red necks in LaGrange GA are pretty happy too – ignorance is bliss, they care about if the fish are biting, what's on the barbie? and what sport team beat who. – true troglodytes. I think they are clones actually, copies of copies. I am one of the prime numbers – and where oh cnn is the news that everyone else knows? – is this a black out so we can't talk in case? – you are worse than you were when you abused your interns under turner's ownership. – Yes. where is my news please????

    June 29, 2011 at 11:00 am | Reply
  10. The Crocodile Buggerer


    June 29, 2011 at 11:12 am | Reply
  11. phoenix

    americans are more heathen then spiritual aussies live to work we work to live.

    June 29, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Reply
    • Rick

      So so wrong. Nice try at making up stuff and claiming it as fact. You related to Bachmann by any chance?

      June 29, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Reply
  12. Rod C. Venger

    Statistics in this context are silly and not relevant. If Australia is somehow measured as the happiest place on Earth, you probably need to qualify that with a "for white natives". I doubt if the Aborigines there would agree with the assessment nor would someone like me moving from the US to there...long moves being known to be huge stressors on people. For me, the happiest place on Earth...that is, the place I'd be happiest, is Ramah, Colorado...which is as meaningless and irrelevant to you as is Australia to me.

    June 29, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Reply
    • oldboldgold

      I recently moved home to the Pacific Northwest... paradise on earth as far as I'm concerned. I love a rainy day...

      June 30, 2011 at 4:55 am | Reply
  13. John R

    I'm not sure I'll change anyone's minds about what THEY fell is the happiest place for themselves, but I study nations much like OECD did here, and have my own conclusions. Originally from Canada, living in the US and having considered seriously immigrating to Australia, I can say these 3 countries are all amongst the finest places to live. But, it obviously depends on what you as an individual want from yourself, others and the greater community...and how much you want to contribute. Canada and Australia, as is Norway, are all resource-rich, and that has seen their per-capita incomes skyrocket in the last few years. Believe me, I know well what it's like when it's the other way around when resources aren't in vogue.

    World trends such as resource prices (boring for some, I know) are actually key here, because the ability of a nation to fund it's services comes largely from that. New Zealand is a great sleeper on the list...go there, and you won't want to leave. Yet looking at ratings, it just seems comfortably in the upper group of nations. This is defined by quality of you want to 'risk all' and run a business in the US, knowing you have a 1 in 10 chance of succeeding, but if you do, you might hit it rich? Or would you rather a society where it's harder to run a business, and you're taxed from the outset, encumbering some innovation, but also have national guarantees that you'll have a place to live and food? Believe me, the answer isn't a simple yes or no, especially when it isn't a theoretical question.

    June 29, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Reply
  14. Alex

    One asterix. The Australian voter turnout is somewhat artificial. It's so high because they get fined if they do not vote.

    June 29, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Reply
  15. USminority

    MANswers reported that an Australian woman is most likely to give a bj.

    June 29, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Reply
  16. joseelr

    Ah, love Canada....

    June 29, 2011 at 10:25 pm | Reply

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