Life is measured in more than numbers. What is it like to live in any particular country? Are citizens happy, healthy, well-housed and well-fed, well-educated, and safe? The numbers include data from multiple indexes measuring standing of the 12 democracies.

Overview

COLOR CODING
GreenRanked first for statistic
RedRanked last for statistic
 Human Development IndexBetter Life IndexWorld Happiness Report RankingSocial Progress IndexEnvironmental Performance IndexHappy Planet IndexLegatum Prosperity Index
Australia0.9517.11190.28178816
Canada0.9367.01491.414910515
Denmark0.9487.5292.151701
France0.9036.72188.23123122
Germany0.9427.31390.3213299
Italy0.8956.52886.56234031
Japan0.9256.15590.44255719
Netherlands0.9417.5590.5711186
Norway0.9617.3692.6320382
Sweden0.9477.3791.205413
United Kingdom0.9296.81788.2521413
United States0.9217.01986.294312220

SOURCES:

Human Development Index 2022

The Human Development Index (HDI) was created to emphasize that people and their capabilities should be the ultimate criteria for assessing the development of a country, not economic growth alone. The HDI is a summary measure of average achievement in three key dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, being knowledgeable and have a decent standard of living. The HDI is the geometric mean of normalized indices for each of the three dimensions. Table updated 12/13/2022, data updates as of 9/8/2022.

Better Life Index 2022 (2024 Update: we searched the OECD for more recent data, to no avail. Our search continues.)

There is more to life than the cold numbers of GDP and economic statistics – The Better Life Index allows you to compare well-being across countries, based on 11 topics the OECD has identified as essential, in the areas of material living conditions and quality of life. Data confirmed 12/13/2022.

World Happiness Report

The year 2022 marks the 10th anniversary of the World Happiness Report, which uses global survey data to report how people evaluate their own lives in more than 150 countries worldwide. The World Happiness Report 2022 reveals a bright light in dark times. The pandemic brought not only pain and suffering but also an increase in social support and benevolence. As we battle the ills of disease and war, it is essential to remember the universal desire for happiness and the capacity of individuals to rally to each other’s support in times of great need. Data confirmed 12/13/2022.

Social Progress Index

The Social Progress Index ranks 168 countries on social progress. Combining 53 social and environmental outcome indicators to calculate an overall score for these countries, based on tiered levels of scoring that include measures in health, safety, education, technology, rights, and more. Also considering the data of 36 additional countries, calculating component and dimension scores when enough data are available. In all, the Social Progress Index measures at least some aspects of social progress across more than 99.97% of the world’s population. Data confirmed 12/13/2022.

Environmental Performance Index

The 2022 EPI provides a quantitative basis for comparing, analyzing, and understanding environmental performance for 180 countries. We score and rank these countries on their environmental performance using the most recent year of data available and calculate how these scores have changed over the previous decade. Data confirmed 12/13/2022.

Happy Planet Index

The HPI gives us an idea of whether or not a country’s wellbeing is ‘sustainable’, by looking at how much of the fundamental ‘input’ – ecological footprint (the pressure we put on the planet) – is used to create the ultimate ‘output’ we’re looking for – long, happy lives. Data confirmed 12/13/2022.

Legatum Prosperity Index, 2021

The Legatum Prosperity Index™ is a tool for transformation, offering a unique insight into how prosperity is forming and changing across the world. Data confirmed 12/13/2022.

Notes

The U.S. Is Lagging Behind Many Rich Countries. These Charts Show Why.

New York Times, Jul 2nd, 2020, David Leonhardt and Yaryna Serkez
Average income has increased world-wide. However, for residents of the US, these income gains have been seen mostly by the affluent, while middle-and lower-income workers have seen their share reduced. The US ranks lower than other advanced nations in membership in labor unions, which, for years, supported workers in the US. Research shows that labor union members are paid more, on average, than non-members in similar, non-union jobs.

There are many other factors contributing to the failure of the US to keep up with other advanced democracies, including health care; taxes; incarceration rates; lower minimum wage; and higher prices for everyday items like cell phones.

Building a Movement for Happiness

Truthout, May 15th, 2014, John de Graaf
Argues for using happiness and well-being as measures of progress and success. “Gallup…assess the happiness of 150 countries in the world each year. Consistently, northern European nations rank on top, with Denmark in the number one spot year after year. The United States, which ranked 11th in 2007, has dropped to 17th place since the great economic meltdown. Several factors in particular characterize the world’s happiest countries – a relatively small gap between rich and poor; excellent work-life balance; urban design favoring community over cars; high degrees of interpersonal trust; a strong social safety net, and, contrary to popularly-held US ideas, the highest tax rates in the world.”

U.S. work-life balance ranks poorly on Better Life Index

SFGate, Feb 26th, 2014, Kathryn Roethel
“The good news is poor work-life balance in the United States doesn’t seem to translate into poor quality of life overall. Americans were in the top half of the pack in the “life satisfaction” ranking, and the U.S. was No. 1 in after-tax household income.”

World Wildlife Fund: Living Planet Report 2022

World Wildlife Fund International states that there must be a balance between meeting needs for society’s existence and stewardship for better sustainability for tomorrow’s world. It prescribes that countries aim for a Human Development Index score (today’s needs) of at least .800 and an ecological footprint (sustainability) of less than 1.8 global hectares per person.

A Comparison of the U.S. to the Other Rich Nations

Michael Wolff & Company, Inc., Wolff et al.
Where We Stand, Bantam Books, 1992. Interesting, comprehensive, and now out-of-date. They used indicators for productivity, salaries, equitable wealth distribution, luxury-goods consumption, trading strength, poverty, personal and national indebtedness, inflation control, business strength and credit-worthiness. International Comparisons note: we include this as an historical reference.

OECD Better Life Index

In 2013, OECD published the original Better Life Index, with these rankings: Australia-1, Sweden-2, Canada-3, Norway-4, United States-6, Denmark-7, Netherlands-8, United Kingdom-10, Germany-17, France-18, Japan-21, Italy-23. The current Better Life Index is a table with 18 columns of social and economic indicators, allowing users to create their own index. “Life Satisfaction” is one of the indicators, but it is a single indicator, not a combination of multiple indicators.