On top of the world: Europeans believe they are happier than ever

Europeans are happier with their lives than they were five years ago, according to a survey in 32 countries that hints at broad levels of satisfaction despite one of the most turbulent periods of postwar history.

The Eurostat survey found that self-reported levels of satisfaction rose in all but three countries surveyed (Lithuania, Sweden and the Netherlands). It found the most content Europeans are in Switzerland, Norway, Finland and Austria. Across the EU28, satisfaction on a scale of 1-10 rose to 7.3 in 2018, from 7 in 2013.

Lowest levels of satisfaction were recorded in Bulgaria, Croatia and Greece, though even here, people felt better about their lives than in 2013.

The findings are something of a surprise given the social and political convulsions across Europe in recent years. The continent has been unsettled by waves of protest, mass immigration, a series of inconclusive elections and the rise of populism. Yet at the same time in most European countries, people live longer, enjoy greater prosperity and better health than at any time in history.

The Eurostat survey uncovered clear evidence that life satisfaction depends to a certain extent on wealth, education and age. Of young people, 11% declared a low level of life satisfaction, compared with 30% for people over 75.

Not surprisingly, satisfaction levels among the richest 20% were on average more than a whole point higher than those among the poorest quintile (7.8 against 6.6). Rich Finns were the most satisfied subgroup in the survey, poor Bulgarians the least.

People with children, and people with degrees generally scored higher than average. “The mean rating for people with tertiary education is about one point higher than the one for respondents whose highest educational level is lower secondary education,” the report said.

People were also asked how often they were happy. Remarkably, more than 60% said that over the last four weeks they were happy all or most of the time.