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Quality of Life

The table below compares the U.S., Australia, and the Netherlands on a variety of measures relating to quality of life.

 U.S.AustraliaNetherlands
Human Development, rank825
Happy Planet Index, rank10810518
Quality of Life Index, rank1628
happiness, rank17104
safety, % yes484962
Crime Index484230
police officers, per 100,000 residents2432220.9
employment protection (OECD rank)0.2 (72)1.7 (36)2.9 (8)
hours worked179014191665
vacation, minimum number days paid03020
bicyclists. % of population (% trips made by bike)32% (< 1%)18%? (~1%)99% (27% of all trips; 25% of trips to work)
2016 Olympic team size, events, medals567, 247, 121432, 198, 29249, 128, 19
2012 Population per Olympic Medal (rank)2,656,000 (43)820,000 (14)891,000 (17)
drinking age211816
alcohol, liters pure alcohol per year9.4412.2010.05
opioids6.003.30< 0.20
prescribed opioids5.60n/a
cannabis, % adult annual use15107

Learn more

Every number on this page is publicly available, usually from multiple sources. Links go to the original data source, where I could find it. Many go to a Wikipedia page with the information. Those pages usually link to the original data sources — and to much more. As few of the links below as possible go to secondary sources like newspaper articles about the original data.

Please let me know if I have made any errors in transferring numbers from the sources to the table above. Also, I am very interested in data that differs from what is above.

Human Development – The United Nations’ Human Development Index combines three other indices: life expectancy, education, and wealth. The table shows the rank order number of each country out of 187 countries. A rank closer to 1 means a longer life, more education, and greater wealth.

Happy Planet – The New Economics Foundation’s Happy Planet Index combines subjective life satisfaction, life expectancy at birth, and ecological footprint per capita. The table shows the rank order number of each country for 2012. The lower number countries, the people describe themselves more often as satisfied with their lives, they live longer, and they put less stress on the planet’s limited resources.

Quality of life – The Economist’s 2013 Quality of Life Index. Our table shows the rank order number of each country out of 111 as an aggregate of nine quality of life factors. The lower the number, the higher the comparative quality.

  • Material well-being as measured by GDP per capita (in $, at 2006 constant PPPS)
  • Life expectancy at birth
  • The quality of family life based primarily on divorce rates
  • The state of political freedoms
  • Job security (measured by the unemployment rate)
  • Climate (measured by two variables: the average deviation of minimum and maximum monthly temperatures from 14 degrees Celsius; and the number of months in the year with less than 30mm rainfall)
  • Personal physical security ratings (based primarily on recorded homicide rates and ratings for risk from crime and terrorism)
  • Quality of community life (based on membership in social organisations)
  • Governance (measured by ratings for corruption)
  • Gender equality (measured by the share of seats in parliament held by women)

happinessWorld Happiness Report 2013 published by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network. Our table shows the rank order number of each country out of 156 as an aggregate of seven happiness factors. The lower the number, the higher the comparative quality. The report breaks down happiness into a base happiness and then the happiness added by other factors:

  • wealth
  • social support
  • health
  • freedom to make life choices
  • generosity
  • perceptions of corruption

Bhutan is the best known example where the government has adopted the objective of maximizing its Gross National Happiness (GNH) Index. This is a very broad measure with 124 different components. It is very much an indicator of the “colors and texture”10 of people’s lives. The GNH Index acts as a measure of progress and by looking at those components that drag down overall GNH, it shows where policy changes are most needed. These changes can be implemented at the individual, community or country level.

Many countries are following Bhutan’s lead.

Top 16 countries, followed by the U.S. at #17:

1 – 4

  • Denmark
  • Norway
  • Switzerland
  • Netherlands
5 – 8

  • Sweden
  • Canada
  • Finland
  • Austria
9 – 12

  • Iceland
  • Australia
  • Israel
  • Costa Rica
13 – 16

  • New Zealand
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Panama
  • Mexico

safety – Nationmaster’s Feels safe walking alone at night. Percentage reporting yes.

crime index – Numbeo’s Crime Index is an estimation of overall level of crime in a given city or a country. Crime Levels up to 50 are reasonable, and crime index levels more than 100 are too high.

compare U.S. and Netherlands

compare Buffalo and Leiden

compare U.S. and Australia

compare Buffalo and Adelaide

compare Australia and Netherlands

police officers – per 100,000 residents – Nationmaster’s country comparisons. This is a difficult number to pin down. Do we count everyone employed by law enforcement agencies? Or only patrol officers? Or officers, deputies, detectives, and supervisors? Or only “sworn” personnel? Do we count part-time or full-time? Local, state, or federal or all of them? What about officers who work for multiple agencies? The numbers on the table come from 2011 and 2008 for the Netherlands and Australia and from 1996 for the U.S. Since then, it has grown quite a bit, so the number on the table is an undercount. What about Homeland Security officers, whose agency didn’t exist in 1996?

employment protection – How hard it is to fire employees. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)‘s Strictness of employment protection, A country with a higher number has more protections for employees. In a country with a low number, it is very easy for a company to fire employees.

hours worked – The OECD’s Average annual hours actually worked per worker

vacation – How much paid vacation time must workers get? Wikipedia’s statutory minimum vacations. Our table shows the number of days of vacation required by law at a minimum, not including national holidays.

Olympic medalsMedals per Capita

drinking age – What’s the legal drinking age? Wikipedia’s List of countries by legal drinking age.

alcohol – Wikipedia’s List of countries by alcohol consumption. Our table shows the number of liters of pure alcohol.

opioids – United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime’s World Drug Report. and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA)’s European Drug Report. Annual prevalence of use as percentage of population 15-64

Americans consume vast majority of the world’s opioids

Approximately 80 percent of the global opioid supply is consumed in the United States.

Opioid Consumption in Morphine Equivalence (ME), mg per person – Opioid Consumption Motion Chart

cannabis, % adult annual use – United Nations Office On Drugs and Crime