We eat and smoke too much ... but we’re still happy

We are heavier and smoke more than the people of other developed nations, but Ireland is happier than most countries despite our deep financial troubles.

The latest global Better Life Index also shows that community spirit and volunteerism remain strong as people continue to offer a helping hand to those who need it most.

Ireland ranks among the top 10 on several topics in the index compiled by the OECD, including a high satisfaction rate with housing, environmental quality, and the health of the nation.

Although we are ranked sixth — behind Switzerland, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and Israel — when the 81-year life expectancy of our newborns and our self-reported health are combined, there are some worrying statistics.

Despite one of the biggest increases in health spending per person for most of the last decade, total health spending remains slightly below the OECD average.

The 29% of Irish adults who smoked in 2007 is above the 23.3% average, but is down from almost half the adult population smoking 40 years ago.

Also worrying is that almost one in four adults are obese, compared with 17% across the OECD.

We are, nonetheless, happier with our lot than the people of just over half of the other nations, giving an average 7/10 when asked to rate our general satisfaction with life. Perhaps not as super-positive as the 10/10 Danes, but a far deal happier than the Portuguese, who could only muster an average mark of 1 for their life satisfaction.

Work stats

* Ireland has a below-average employment rate: 60% of 15- to 64-year-olds are in paid work, compared with 75% in Holland, Norway, Switzerland and Iceland.

* Average individual earnings in Ireland are almost €19,100 a year — above the OECD average of €17,680 but lower than in just over half of 36 countries compared.

* Ireland has a considerable gap between richest and poorest: the top 20% earn more than four times as much as the bottom 20%.


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