How's Life?
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How's Life?

Measuring Well-being

Every person aspires to a good life. But what does "a good or a better life" mean? This report looks at the most important aspects that shape people’s lives and well-being: income, jobs, housing, health, work and life-balance, education, social connections, civic engagement and governance, environment, personal security and subjective well-being. It paints a comprehensive picture of well-being in OECD countries and other major economies, by looking at people’s material living conditions and quality of life across the population. The report responds to the needs of citizens for better information on well-being and of policy makers to give a more accurate picture of societal progress.

The report finds that well-being has increased on average over the past fifteen years: people are richer and more likely to be employed; they enjoy better housing conditions and are exposed to lower air pollution; they live longer and are more educated; they are also exposed to fewer crimes. But differences across countries are large. Furthermore, some groups of the population, particularly less educated and low-income people, tend to fare systematically worse in all dimensions of well-being considered in this report: for instance they live shorter lives and report greater health problems; their children obtain worse school results; they participate less in political activities; they can rely on lower social networks in case of needs; they are more exposed to crime and pollution; they tend to be less satisfied with their life as a whole than more educated and higher-income people.

How’s Life? is part of the OECD Better Life Initiative, launched by the Organization on the occasion of its 50th Anniversary. The OECD Better Life Initiative aims to promote "Better Policies for Better Lives", in line with the OECD’s overarching mission. One of the other pillars of the OECD Better Life Initiative is the Your Better Life Index (www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org), an interactive composite index of well-being that aims at involving citizens in the debate on societal progress.

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Publication Date :
12 Oct 2011
DOI :
10.1787/9789264121164-en
 
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Social connections You do not have access to this content

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Author(s):
OECD
Pages :
169–186
DOI :
10.1787/9789264121164-10-en

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Beyond the intrinsic pleasure that people derive from spending time with others, social connections have positive spill-over effects for individual and societal well-being. People with extensive and supportive networks have better health, tend to live longer, and are more likely to be employed. At a society-wide level, social connections can generate shared values – such as trust in others and norms of reciprocity – which influence a range of outcomes, including economic growth, democratic participation and crime. The indicators used in this chapter to measure different aspects of social connections refer to social network support and to the frequency of social contact. Overall, personal social networks are relatively strong in OECD countries, with most people seeing friends and/or relatives on a regular basis and reporting that they have someone to count on in times of need. However, there are significant differences between different socio-economic and demographic groups, with the old, the poor and the less-educated having weaker social support networks. There are also wide crosscountry differences in levels of interpersonal trust – one key indicator of the outcomes of social connections. Measuring social connections remains challenging, however, and more work is needed to develop comparable measures in this field.
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