The snappily-named European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions asked 26,000 adults in the EU countries plus Bulgaria, Rumania and Turkey how they felt about their own lives and about society in general.
As a map of individual attitudes towards quality of life, the study is thought to be the first of its kind. And the results suggest that those seeking the good life should head north.
“Swedes, Danes and Finns generally show a high level of satisfaction with their daily lives and express a high degree of happiness,” said Robert Anderson, research coordinator at the institute.
When Swedes were asked to rate on a scale of 1 to 10 how satisfied they were with “life in general”, the average was 7.8. That compared to an average of 7.3 for the 15 ‘old’ EU countries and 6.1 for the 10 new EU countries.
Only Denmark and Finland ranked themselves higher, a pattern which repeated itself for questions relating to optimism for the future.
However, the validity of the study was questioned by Swedish analysts, particularly as the ratings given by Swedes on their views of social care were surprisingly low – indeed, below average for the old EU countries.
“Sweden has a well-developed care system in many areas,” said Kenneth Abrahamsson at the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research.
“But these measurements are difficult – to a certain extent they reflect the expectations in different societies. You can get a completely different result in a country where the level of care started from a very low base and then increased,” he said.