2015 Better Life Index Reveals U.S. Well-Being Statistics

A woman and girl gaze out the bus windowSince 2011, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)—an NGO dedicated to the promotion of free markets and democracy—has released its Better Life Index. The Index compares well-being across 11 major life areas in 40 countries. On June 1st, the OECD unveiled the 2015 numbers, which provide plenty of insight into emotional health in the United States, especially as compared to psychological wellness in other countries.

The 2015 Better Life Index

This year’s numbers paint Americans as civic-minded, committed to higher education, and fairly happy. Some of the most noteworthy figures from this year’s numbers include the following:

  • The average per-capita post-tax income is $41,355, the highest figure in the index. However, the US has one of the highest rates of income stratification, with the top 20% of the population earning 800% more than the bottom 20%.
  • Sixty-seven percent of Americans work outside the home for pay, compared to an international average of 73%.
  • Eighty-nine percent of Americans have graduated high school, compared to a national average of 75%.
  • Life expectancy in the United States is lower than average, at just 79 years, compared to an international average of 80 years.
  • Ninety percent of Americans report having someone they could rely on in a time of need, compared to an international average of 88%.
  • Voter turnout hovers around 68%, a figure similar to other countries.

Room for Improvement in American Life

Americans report higher overall life satisfactions than residents of most other countries. When asked to rank their life satisfaction on a scale of 0 to 10, Americans gave an average score of 7.2, compared to an international average of 6.6. However, American life satisfaction is lower than that of both Australians and Canadians. A 2014 OECD economic survey suggests that poverty and poor work-life balance may play a pivotal role in life dissatisfaction.

Romina Boarini, an economist with the OECD, told GoodTherapy.org that the Better Life Index provides important insights into American mental health. “Mental health is a critical component of well-being, with nearly 15% of the population suffering from poor mental health in countries with comparable data. Most mental health cases are classified as mild or moderate and are not treated properly,” she explained, drawing on 2011 OECD data.

Boarini continued, “The Better Life Index does not include direct measures of mental health, though, as there are no comparable indicators for all countries included in the Index. The Index, however, does look at aspects of how people feel in their life, such as life satisfaction, that is correlated to mental health to some extent. According to our latest data, about 21% of Americans report poor life satisfaction. This is lower than the OECD average figure of 29%, but higher than observed in Canada and in Australia, for instance, where this figure is 14% and 16% respectively. Clearly mental health matters tremendously to people as shown by the fact that life satisfaction and health are considered the main priorities in life by many users of the Better Life Index, particularly Americans.”

You can create your own Better Life Index, and compare your idea of a good life to that of others, at the OECD home page.

References:

United States. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org/countries/united-states/

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  • Val

    Val

    June 8th, 2015 at 4:13 PM

    We have such a better life than so many other people in this world and yet many of us take that comfort and happiness for granted, focusing only on the things that we don’t like in our lives instead of really looking hard at how fortunate we actually are.

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