bne:Chart - Study shows money can't buy children's happiness

By bne IntelliNews September 9, 2015

Lottie Millington in London -


Romanian children are among the happiest in the world, according to a recent NGO-funded study, outscoring countries from across the globe.

The Children’s Worlds Report surveyed 15 nations, looking at a variety of criteria including living arrangements, economic circumstances and psychological wellbeing. Participants were asked about all aspects of their lives, from pocket money to free time and hopes for the future.

Central and Eastern European and Commonwealth of Independent States (CEE/CIS) countries were well represented, with Estonia, Poland, Turkey and Romania making up four of the top 15. Romania topped the table for satisfaction with life as a whole, scoring 9.51 out of 10.

Romania came in the top three for satisfaction with health and opportunities, but scored very lowly at 10th for time spent having fun with friends and 12th for availability of outdoor spaces in which to play.

Despite recent US-led warnings of aggression from Moscow, Romanians scored consistently highly when rating their perceptions of personal safety. US Defence Secretary Ash Carter announced in June that Romania would be amongst six CEE countries to host Nato military equipment in order to “counter the Russian threat”.

The study showed that the top three happiest countries were amongst the bottom six for GDP per capita (adjusted for purchasing power), and more affluent countries such as Norway, Germany and the UK took 7th, 9th and 11th place, respectively, for satisfaction with life as a whole.

As the bne:Chart shows, there is little to no correlation between income and happiness. The top-left quadrant of high happiness and low income is just as populous as the theoretically more desirable top-right quadrant of high happiness and high income. This is also true with both low happiness quadrants with both high and low income. 

Turkey was third in the rankings, but came top of the table for percentage of participants who rated their wellbeing 10 out of 10. The two-place fall could reflect the income inequality in Turkey, reported in 2014 as the third highest out of the 34 countries in the Organisation for Economic and Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Estonia sat halfway down the table in eighth place when rating life as a whole. The survey showed 100% of over-25 year olds had received secondary education, coming above all three remaining CEE/CIS countries involved. Despite this, a lack of Estonians entering higher education still significantly contributes to the one in five Estonians living in relative poverty, according to a report by the country’s state statistical service in 2013.

Poland was the lowest scoring CIS/CEE country, coming 10th in the table and taking last place for satisfaction with life as a student, despite rising eight places from 13th to fifth in StudyPortals International Student Satisfaction Awards.

Non-domestic students in Poland have praised the international experience but complained about low education standards amongst Polish professors and the desire for more of an academic challenge. Along with the lack of professional opportunities in Poland, these problems are seeing 62% of medical students estimating their likelihood of emigration at 50%, along with other similar statistics across both students and workers.

South Korea took last place, scoring the lowest in satisfaction with self and school marks. A report by the Korea institute of Health and Social Affairs showed that Korean 11 to 15 year olds had the highest stress levels out of 30 developed nations. These stress levels were due to an intense pressure to achieve in school and had made teen suicide commonplace, with suicide now the fourth most common cause of death in South Korea.

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