The Happy Factor – Countries with the Best Wellbeing

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Whatever your reason for moving abroad be it because of a job, family or the chance to experience a new place, it’s likely that wellbeing will also play a big factor in your decision to relocate.

A study by the OECD Better Life Initiative has enabled countries to be compared based on 11 topics that all contribute to overall wellbeing. These included; housing, income, jobs, community, education, environment, civic engagement, health, life satisfaction, safety and work-life balance.

It can be difficult to quantify wellbeing and part of the beauty in the world is that it varies so differently from country to country. One of the interesting factors when it comes to wellbeing is that it doesn’t always mean the country has the highest GDP or wealth, what makes a countries wellbeing rate so highly to shape happiness, goes beyond monetary value.


For many Australia is the ultimate expat dream, with a relatively warm climate all year round and particularly hot summers, beautiful scenery and an outdoorsy lifestyle it’s hard to see what goes against Australia. It seems many agree as it tops the poll with the best wellbeing.

Ranking well for civic engagement, defined as trust in the government when it comes to policy making, health, housing, jobs, earnings and education, it only slipped up when it came to work-life balance. This is due to many working longer than average working hours.

Australians still find lots of time for fun though with a laidback, carefree culture, life down under will certainly be more relaxed than you are used to. With a wide ranging countryside down time is often spent outside socialising with friends and family.


The first EU country to rank in the survey, Sweden topped the list for environmental quality with PM10 particles levels in the air low in the country, as well as high satisfaction with the water quality.

Compared to Australia, Sweden has a better work-life balance with only 1% of employees working long hours and 74% of adults in paid employment. Sweden has an extremely strong job market, with a strong welfare system and working conditions it has high expat appeal.

Sweden’s landscape and location mean it has extremely northern and southern areas, leading to a big divide in cultures and way of life. In Noorland, there are experiences near continuous days of sunlight in summer and no light during winter, with temperatures below 0ºC degrees for large parts of the year.


Norway performs extremely well when it comes to disposable income per household, with 33,492 USD per year compared to the average of 25,908 USD and whilst money doesn’t always contribute to happiness it does contribute to wellbeing.

Norway is also an extremely supportive country with 94% of respondents believing they had someone to turn to during a time in need, a welcome thought especially for the expat community.

Housing in Norway also fell below the average spend of keeping a home and with more room than average too, making it not only spacious but cheap to run, both factors which can help to contribute to happiness.


Low for civic engagement, Switzerland does however perform highly for jobs, income, health, environmental quality and personal security. 80% of adults are in paid jobs, with 86% educated to secondary school level, higher than the 75% average.

When it comes to housing, Switzerland spend 4% more on their homes per year than the survey average, proving housing costs can be expensive in the country.

The good news is that whilst housing is expensive, the disposable income per household is over 8000 USD higher than the average, and net wealth is 108,823 USD per capita, whereas the average was 67,139 USD.


Denmark is top for work-life balance, and above average for environmental quality, civic engagement, education, skills, jobs, wealth and personal security, making it a great place to live.

Danish people also ranked their life satisfaction highly when asked, at 7.5 out of 10, where the average was 6.6. Denmark has also been voted the world’s happiest country in the United Nation’s World Happiness Report.

With higher incomes, good healthcare and education systems it’s easy to see why Danes are just so happy, despite their high taxes. Parental leave and childcare policies are also extremely generous endearing Denmark to many families.

Wherever you choose to move to you’ll of course need to weigh up the pros and cons, but taking a look at the countries with the best wellbeing factors is a good place to begin.


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