Around the world, two things are essential to finding happiness

Bondi Beach. Daniel Munoz/Getty Images

Achieving happiness is a simple formula, according to the latest data from the OECD’s Better Life Index.

Being healthy and having a good job are the most important ingredients associated with well-being.

Australia scores well for life satisfaction in the latest update to the Better Life Index as does Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, New Zealand and Canada and Australia.

All these countries score highly on employment levels, the quality of jobs and the health of their people.

Life satisfaction is lowest in the countries where employment levels and life expectancy are below the OECD average.

For many years researchers have been trying to define the joy and well-being of happiness, how people come to experience it and how to help them get a bit more of it in their lives.

One set of researchers created a mathematical formula to define happiness.

On a country level, there have been many attempts to judge the happiness of countries and some have even suggested that this is a better measure of a nation’s progress than looking at an economy through the lens of numbers such as GDP (Gross Domestic Product).

Australia generally does well in the rankings. The latest World Happiness Report puts Australia in 9th place out of 158 countries.

The 2016 update to the OECD’s Better Life Index puts Australia at 9th out of the 38 developed countries for life satisfaction.

The index shows that having strong networks of friends and connections and enjoying a good work-life balance and personal safety are also associated with high life satisfaction.

Better Life Index scores for Australia. Supplied.

Nordic countries score highly in these areas but also Spain where 96% of people say that they know someone they could rely on in time of need.

People who have been educated to university level in OECD countries tend to have higher levels of life satisfaction than those who have only completed primary education.

The index covers 38 countries and measures well-being across 11 dimensions: housing, income, jobs, community, education, environment, civic engagement, health, life satisfaction, safety and work-life balance.

Good economic performance of a country does not necessarily mean top performance across well-being indicators.

For example, South Africa scores poorly on many of indicators compared with richer countries, but has a relatively strong sense of community and work-life balance.

Personal security is an issue also in some higher income countries. The index shows feelings of insecurity are high in the US, Australia and New Zealand.

Australia

In general, Australians are more satisfied with their lives than the OECD average.

When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Australians gave it a 7.3 grade, higher than the OECD average of 6.5.

Australia ranks at the top in civic engagement and above the average in income and wealth, environmental quality, health status, housing, jobs and earnings, education and skills, subjective well-being and social connections.

Money does matter because it helps create a higher standard of living.

In Australia, the average household net-adjusted disposable income per head is $US33,138 a year, more than the OECD average of $US29,016 a year.

But there is a considerable gap between the richest and poorest. The top 20% of the population earn more than five times as much as the bottom 20%.

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