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French are happier than Brits, study suggests

The Local · 2 Jul 2015, 09:52

Published: 02 Jul 2015 09:52 GMT+02:00

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Finally a happiness ranking that gives the French reason to be happy.

The country regularly scores pretty badly in happiness rankings given the standard of living, but perhaps things aren't that bad after all.

A new study that looks at "well-being equality" has calculated how equally happiness levels in European countries are spread and France, for all the perceived negativity regarding the economy, does better than many of its neighbours including the UK and Germany.

"We must move beyond addressing inequality from a purely economic perspective. The aim of this index is not to belittle the importance of economic equality, but to shed light on an overlooked dimension of inequality: well-being," reads the study. 

In the happiness equality index the French are ranked ninth, ahead of their British cousins, who came in 14th place, a study from the Happiness Research Institute has found.

The French were also found to have more equality in well-being than the Germans, who came in at tenth place, but came in just below the traditionally highly ranked Swedes.

"France does quite badly in terms of happiness rankings when we look at average levels, but the good news is that in France, happiness is more equally spread," he said. "And it's more equally distributed than the UK."

"This could of course be linked to general income inequality which is greater in the UK. We know that income matters when people evaluate their levels of happiness, particularly when they compare how much money they earn compared to their peers," said Wiking.

France has been commended for its relatively low levels of inequality compared to other countries. A recent OECD study noted France’s “enviable standard of living”, “high productivity” and “only average income inequality that hasn't worsened despite the crisis”.

"What we can say is that in general happy countries are on average more equal countries," says Wiking. "We know that inequality leads to crime and social problems."

The study was based on respondents’ answer to the question: “All in all, would you say that you are happy?”

The findings put the results of previous studies in a new light.  

Story continues below…

In April the 2015 World Happiness Report published by the United Nations ranked the country in 29th place, behind Germany which came in at 26th. Switzerland topped the ranking, usurping Denmark which was ranked first in the previous ranking, and demoted to third.

In order to rate happiness levels in different countries, academics identified such variables as real GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on, perceived freedom to make life choices, freedom from corruption and generosity.

A similar report in 2013 also made grim reading for France.

A survey conducted by Viavoice and communications agency W & Cie found that a whopping 70 percent of French people saw their country as afflicted by a “collective depression”, with two thirds believing that France was in “decline”.

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