Quality of life For Members

EXPLAINED: Why are Austrians 'Europe's happiest' people?

EXPLAINED: Why are Austrians 'Europe's happiest' people?
Austrians are the happiest in Europe in 2023, according to Eurostat. What's behind the survey result? Photo: Pixabay/Spotsoflight

Austrians are the happiest people in the European Union, according to a new survey, but what have they go to be so happy about? Share your own views in the comments section.


Eurostat have published the results of their latest Quality of Life Index, with Austrians ranked in the top position

According to the results, Austrians rated themselves 7.9 out of a possible 10, in terms of their quality of life, which was enough to see them top the table.

Particularly important to the development of Eurostat’s modelling is the perception of material wealth, education and the social safety net. Therefore, examining those areas may help us understand why exactly Austria’s placed so highly. 

A wealthy nation

Austria’s economy is a strong one, outperforming much of the European bloc, with a GDP of 67,692 USD per capita in 2023. 

In 2022, it placed 15th on the list of the world’s richest countries formulated by the WorldInfo database. This metric was calculated by taking into consideration population, GDP and relative purchasing power. Austria is placed above European powerhouses such as Germany (18), France (26) and Italy (30). 

When ranked by pure GDP, Austria placed 33rd in the world, above fellow EU member states such as Denmark (41), Czechia (48) and Finland (49). 


While the Austrian economy did suffer a 2.1 percent drop throughout the coronavirus pandemic and struggled with the cost of living crisis as much as any other European countries, there are promising signs of recovery. 

In the period of focus, 2022, Austria’s strongest performing businesses included oil and gas provider OMV, as well as banking giants Erste Group and Raiffeisen Bank. Austria is also known for a powerful construction and technology sector, and recently investing record amounts in its rail infrastructure. 

READ MORE: Where are Austria's big international companies located?

The survey also suggested that those living in Austria's beautiful rural areas were slightly happier than those living in Austrian cities and also more satisfied with life than those in rural areas in other countries.

An educated country

Austria has long been a centre of learning and innovation. Indeed, it was one of the first in the world to introduce mandatory schooling. This attitude towards education is reflected in its international rankings.

In the most recent studies, it was found that Austria boasts a literacy rate of 98 percent. 


In regards to schooling, in 2022, Austria placed at number 21 out of 81 in terms of PISA scores, that measure academic achievement. This placed it in the top 25 percent of participating countries - despite a furore over a drop in mathematics scores.

In terms of higher education, Austria boasts eight universities in the vaunted QS World University Rankings, with the University of Vienna, the University of Technology Vienna and the University of Innsbruck enjoying spaces in the top 300 worldwide. 

READ MORE: Can I complete an English-speaking degree in Austria?

A supportive place 

Austria is also a nation that has long prioritised providing a social ‘safety net’. Beginning with reforms introduced by Empress Maria Theresia, social welfare has long been supported by successive governments - no matter what form they took. 

According to Eurostat, Austria only lags behind France, Finland and Italy in terms of spending on social welfare programs. According to the latest figures, the country spends 21.9 percent of its GDP on welfare infrastructure programs, from healthcare to benefits. 


A closer look at the available data reveals that, according to Statistics Austria, Austria spent approximately 11.4 percent of that GDP on healthcare - more than many of its neighbours. This results in an excellent standard of care.

This huge investment can be better understood when the logistical delays of the coronavirus pandemic, and the country’s ageing population are understood. 

READ MORE: Explained: How the Austrian healthcare system works 

…or is it something else? 

While wealth, schooling and excellent healthcare could be doing a lot to make the average Austrian happy, could it be that there are other factors at play that improve their lot? 

News of the happiness survey result provoked a lively discussion on the Reddit web forum

User ‘DerBanzai’ was succinct as to why he thought Austrians were happiest: “A strong social safety net, life is mostly affordable with a normal wage and work-life balance is good.”

Another user, ‘Imnotokayandthatso-k’, echoed the sentiment: “All in all, while Austria has its problems, compared to the rest of Europe, it's a great place to live. It's fairly safe, the working class hasn't been completely stripped of their rights yet and middle incomes are very cosy.”

Others had a much more focused, cultural explanation. Said user ‘LucasMJean’: “We have a very viennese word called “sudern” where we just talk about things that annoy us.”

Another user ‘Le Nopeman’ responded: “We don’t keep our negative feelings to ourselves, but let them out. Therefore we just articulate things and move on instead of staying silent and being unhappy.”

Could it be as simple as the legendary Austrian capacity for complaining? No, then Germany would enjoy a similar ranking - and they plummeted down the chart this year. 

Let us know your thoughts in the comments section: Do you find Austrians happy in general? Why might that be?



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