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Monday, 29 July, 2002, 11:47 GMT 12:47 UK
Where are the best and worst places to live?
Norway is the most highly developed country according to the UN's 12th annual Human Development Report with Sierra Leone being ranked as the least developed.

The report, which ranks 173 countries for their quality of life, uses indicators such as life expectancy, education and income per person to gauge a country's progress.

Sweden, Canada, Belgium, Australia and the United States where all ranked high in the chart with the bottom of the index being dominated by African countries.

The report also warned that rising inequality and corruption around the world are putting the recent spread of democracy in many countries at risk.

Which countries do you think have the best and worst quality of life? Can quality of life be measured?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

Some of the larger countries are not homogenous

Nico, USA
The UN list, unfortunately, doesn't take into account that some of the larger countries are not homogenous but instead are very complex places where people live. For example, people who live in the metropolitan area of NYC can also enjoy a very relaxing, country lifestyle - and I would imagine the same is true for most European countries.
Nico, USA

I can't believe that Northern European countries ended up first in the list. In Holland, life is easy but extremely boring. Everything is so basic, beginning with food and housing. If you can, move to the south and you'll be happy.
Fabrizio, the Netherlands

I have seen many countries and live in a few but I will never trade this country even for all the tea in china.
Anwer Mehkeri, Canada

What ultimately matters are the people you're with

John, USA
I've been to Britain, Canada, Ecuador and I live in the US. I found much to love and much to dislike about each. I think what ultimately matters are the people you're with, and the within-country heterogeneity in people quality is much greater than the between-country heterogeneity. Thus, I think you can be happy or sad anywhere.
John, USA

The US is by far the best place in the world to live. The friendly people, good weather, stimulating atmosphere and world class entertainment makes this place awfully hard to leave.
Eric, USA

One country that should not be on the top 10 list is Japan. Specifically, the urban areas. Crowded, noisy, extremely high cost of living, abundant pollution. They do have a low crime rate though. Rural Japan, I have to say, is far nicer and pleasant. Clean air, beautiful scenery, good food, and friendly people. Just get outside the cities.
Mike, USA (currently Japan)

Great beaches swimming and surf

Arthur Lowe, Australia
Australia - sun all year around, barbies with prawns whenever, great wine, great beaches swimming and surf, great wildlife, great food, more space than you can throw a boomerang at and the politicians are all in Canberra, 1000 miles away from civilisation so there aren't any wars worth mentioning. On the negative side, the beer is terrible, Oh well, we can't have everything. Have to stick to wine or gin. Sorry Norway, pass me another prawn will ya Sheila...
Arthur Lowe, Australia

No stress in Oz? You should try working in Sydney "mate" - 12 hour days, most weekends - that's the norm for corporate Australia in 2002! Even the government admits we're working the longest hours of any OECD nation - not my idea of paradise.
John, Australia (ex UK)

It depends on your place in the social ladder. If you're a well-heeled politician or media magnate then life is pretty good for you regardless of location. At the other end of the scale, it's a different story. Australia ranks high in the chart, but they obviously didn't assess the problems faced by aboriginal communities. Infant mortality is on a par with third world countries, life expectancy is low, tuberculosis is rife and life expectancy compares badly with the white majority. Add to that the issue of deaths in custody, can it really be the "lucky country"?
Nigel, Australia

I was glad to see New Zealand didn't make the list. There won't be a rush of new immigrants to mess up paradise. With a life expectancy of 77.9 years and only 3.8 million inhabitants, New Zealand has a perfect space to person ratio. No queues, no waiting, no stress. I know where I would rather live. And where the GDP of $17,700 per capita is actually enough to live on comfortably!! Try and live in the US on $34,142 per annum!!
John Barrett, Mexico

Holland is in the top 10? This is one of the most overcrowded parts of the "developed world"! Streets are narrow and congested, houses cramped and prices high (especially compared with our neighbours). Some people say we are a tolerant nation, in reality we have developed a strange sense of lack of care.
Bas Ten Berge, Holland

There are the less glamorous sides of the Norwegian society

Christopher Briggs, ex-Pat, Norway
My only comment after 11 years living here is "the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence". Sure there are many things that Norway can be proud of, and no doubt Norwegians take this report as proof that there after all is no better place on the globe. However, I personally think this is a little selective - there are the less glamorous sides of the Norwegian society, just as with all other societies. I do not think that Norway is better - or worse - in that respect than Britain. Yet how do you quantify quality of life? If you mean capital and material goods, then certainly there may be something to this report. If on the other hand you are looking at how people look after each other, and included in this the family, I think you will find it is another story.
Christopher Briggs, ex-Pat, Norway

Having spent extensive time in Mali (featured in the bottom 15) I have to say that I prefer the uncomplicated life of Mali to the USA. If only, I can convince my wife to move there.
Sandeep, USA

Climate is a huge factor, plus stress free daily living, i.e. no traffic jams, queues, crime etc. I live in Canada but love to get away to places with real atmosphere and excitement, like the UK.
Trish, Canada

Quality of life is such an esoteric thing to measure. I have lived in New York City for 2 years and can't imagine wanting to live anywhere else. I have spent time in Canada, Mexico, and the UK (along with many areas of the USA) and none of those places have compared to the cultural and social stimulus I get presently. I may pay more for living, but it is a worthwhile investment.
Eli, USA

I used to live in the UK. The weather was so depressing. The people were often miserable and longing for a holiday in the sunshine. What does that tell you? Now I live in Florida, USA and most days are gorgeous and the people have a much better optimistic outlook on life, even if they have life challenges.
Jon Goldberg, USA

No one mentioned Malta. Surely it must be the worst place on the planet: hot, dirty, overcrowded, underdeveloped, and no job opportunities whatsoever.
John de Bono, Malta

It's more a matter of attitudes and perceptions

Mark L, England
I do not think that the quality of life can be quantified without considering climate. Lengthy spells of poor weather can contribute to depression and therefore affect people's quality of life. Likewise, I know of many people (from NZ and Australia) who have little money but spend their days on a beautiful sun-drenched beach. As far as they are concerned, life cannot get any better. I believe it's more a matter of one's attitudes and perceptions.
Mark L, England

Italy has great scenery and weather and I think people have very strong family ties, which is good for the general wellbeing. Also people or more into sport and dance instead of getting drunk. In the UK people think more liberally than in most countries, but you really can't ignore the awful weather, the overcrowding and the dependency on alcohol and drugs for leisure pursuits. Zimbabwe is an amazing place. Unfortunately without the basics like food which have been taken away from its people, one can't put this one top any more.
Giles Hogben, Italy

I cannot help thinking that we are too concerned with the top of the table. We should be more concerned with helping the countries at the end of the table.
Dave, Ireland

As a New Yorker, I find myself stressed and harried far more that my European and Australian friends. So their quality of life must be considered to be far better.
Keith, New York, USA

What kind of quality of life did the UN think they measured? In the dark depressing winter season Norway has one of the highest suicide rates in Europe. There is so much more to quality of life than income per capita.
Silvan, Brazil

Reading is the worst place to live. It's horrible.
Neil Webster, UK

I agree with Neil Webster that Reading is awful but, I wonder, if he has ever been to Barnsley, South Yorkshire. Now that is a REAL dump!
Richard Murphy, Australia

Surely the fact that somebody lives a long time in Canada doesn't translate into happiness

Jason, Canada
Being Canadian, I am proud to see where we ended up on the list. Interestingly, the UN's quality of life is based on a few factors that can be quantified. Other factors such as work hours, stress and climate are omitted. Surely, the fact that somebody lives a long time in Canada doesn't translate into happiness.
Jason, Canada

Australia is the best country I've ever been for people, places, sport and beauty.
Ian Batch, England

Best place: UK, worst place: UK.
Ferris, London, UK

After three years in the US, I believe the UK has a far better quality of life. The cost of living may be higher, but (house prices aside) that trend is reversing and coupled with more generous holiday time and working conditions, you'd be hard pressed to beat Blighty as a place to live. The only real problem is the weather!
Darren, USA (ex-UK)

See also:

24 Jul 02 | Americas
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