Additional information on wealth and quality of life
As the old adage goes “money can’t buy you happiness”, yet wealth and income are continuously correlated to the quality of life of individuals in different countries around the world. While greater levels of wealth may not guarantee a higher quality life, it certainly increases an individual’s chances of having a longer one. The average life expectancy at birth worldwide by income group shows high income males on average outlive their low income counterparts by an average of 15 years.
A number of the world’s happiest nations also feature in the list of those countries for which average income was highest in 2015, including Switzerland, New Zealand and Australia who made up the top three. That said, average income fails to recognize income inequalities within countries. As such, the explanation of Denmark being the world’s happiest country despite ranking 13th in average income may be the proportion of the population that has access to a high income relative to global levels.
Criticism of the use of income or wealth as a proxy for quality of life led to the creation of the United Nations’ Human Development Index. Although income is included within the index, it also has a major impact on access to the other factors taken into account such as health and education. As such, the countries with the highest human development index can be correlated to those with the highest incomes. That said, none of the above measures seek to assess the physical and mental environmental impact of a high quality of life sourced through high incomes. The happy planet index demonstrates that the inclusion of experienced well-being and ecological footprint in place of income and other proxies for quality of life results in many of the world’s materially poorer nations being included in the happiest.