A survey found life satisfaction was more closely correlated with education level than income
Bulgaria is the unhappiest country in the EU, according to statistics just published by the bloc’s official agency Eurostat. With an overall life satisfaction score of 5.6 out of 10, it was the only one of the 27 member nations where residents on average rated themselves as dissatisfied rather than satisfied.
Germany was the second-most miserable on the continent, with a rating of 6.5 – a sharp drop from its score last year of 7.1.
While the survey did not ask respondents to give specific reasons for their self-evaluation, multiple polls conducted this month showed widespread dissatisfaction with the German government, which is facing a financial crisis and a crisis of confidence, problems many believe are entirely of the government’s own making.
Greece rounded out the top three unhappiest nations, with an average life satisfaction rating of 6.7. The happiest country on the continent was Austria, where residents rated their happiness a 7.9. Finland, Poland, and Romania were tied for second happiest with scores of 7.7.
The ratings appeared to support the cliche that money cannot buy happiness, as neither of second-place scorers Romania or Poland enjoyed a high average per capita income in 2022 and Romanians actually made less on average than their much-more-miserable neighbors in Bulgaria.
Young adults (aged 16 to 29) were geerally happier than those over 65, most significantly so in Croatia, where there was a 1.6-point gap between the two groups’ life satisfaction ratings. While the two groups reported equal happiness in Germany, Danish seniors actually enjoyed more life satisfaction (0.9 points more) than their young-adult counterparts.
Education level appeared the most reliable predictor of life satisfaction across all 27 member states. Individuals with university degrees reported happiness levels significantly higher than their dropout peers – as much as 1.6 points higher in Slovakia.
Having children in the household was also associated with greater happiness. Families with children reported life satisfaction ratings 0.6 points higher than single-person households, though their ratings had decreased more steeply over the last four years.
While five out of the ten top finishers in the 2023 World Happiness Report, published in March, were EU member countries, only Finland, which came in at number one, was among the high scorers on both lists.
Denmark, rated the second-happiest nation in the world on that report, was also the only European country that managed to decrease its consumption of antidepressants in the last decade. It ranked seventh on life satisfaction in Eurostat’s report.