Why Canada is great

Is Canada a happy, healthy place to live?

Australia is seen as having the best quality of life among industrialized countries, one ranking ahead of second-place Canada, according to a report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Canada scored at or near the top in areas such as housing, education, health and life satisfaction among the 34 major industrialized countries that make up the OECD. Sweeden ranked third, the U.S. was seventh and Turkey was dead last.

canada oecd ranking stats

The Better Life Initiative survey marks an attempt by the OECD — an economic and social policy think-tank funded by its members — to provide a broader measure of a country’s success than gross domestic product figures.

A key finding indicating people in Canada feel they have it pretty good was that 78% of Canadians surveyed said they’re satisfied with life, well ahead of the OECD average of 59%. Canada also beat the top-ranked Australia on this question, where 75% expressed a general contentment with their circumstances.

The Netherlands, Denmark and Finland were the top countries in terms of life satisfaction, with 85% of residents in these countries indicating a positive response.

Canadian cities, led by Vancouver, dominate North America’s Top Five list for quality of life, according to a survey issued by global business consultant Mercer. Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal took the next three spots, followed by San Francisco, according to the 2014 Mercer Quality of Living rankings.

The only weakness in ranking Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal compared with Vancouver was their harsher winters, said Luc Lalonde, a principal at Mercer Canada.

The study also looked at such factors as political stability, crime statistics, public and medical services, consumer goods and recreation. The quality of living index is used by companies to help determine compensation for their employees working abroad.

Ottawa ranked 14th globally, while Toronto was 15th and Montreal 23rd.

Where does Canada stand on the Health front?

Most countries have enjoyed large gains in life expectancy over the past decades, thanks to improvements in living conditions, public health interventions and progress in medical care. Life expectancy at birth in Canada stands at 81 years, slightly above the OECD average of 80 years. Life expectancy for women is 83 years, compared with 79 years for men, a slightly smaller difference than the OECD average gender gap of six years with a life expectancy of 83 years for women and 77 years for men.

Higher life expectancy is generally associated with higher healthcare spending per person, although many other factors have an impact on life expectancy (such as living standards, lifestyles, education, environmental factors, access to alternative medicine). Total health spending accounts for 11.2% of GDP in Canada in, nearly two percentage points higher than the OECD average of 9.4%. Canada also ranks above the OECD average in terms of total health spending per person, at 4522 USD in 2011, compared with an OECD average of 3322 USD. Between 2000 and 2011, total health spending in Canada increased in real terms by 4.1% per year on average, a similar growth rate to the OECD average of 4.0%.

Throughout the OECD, tobacco consumption and excessive weight gain remain two important risk factors for many chronic diseases. Canada provides an example of a country that has achieved remarkable progress in reducing tobacco consumption, with the rate of daily smokers among adults having been cut by half since from 34% in 1980 to 15.7% today, a lower rate than the OECD average of 20.9%. Much of this decline in Canada, as well as in other countries, can be attributed to policies aimed at reducing tobacco consumption through public awareness campaigns, advertising bans and increased taxation.

In many OECD countries, large proportions of the population are overweight or obese. In Canada, the obesity rate among adults is 17.7%, slightly higher than the OECD average of 17.2%. . Obesity’s growing prevalence foreshadows increases in the occurrence of health problems (such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and asthma), and higher health care costs in the future.

When asked, “How is your health in general?” 88% of people in Canada reported to be in good health, much higher than the OECD average of 69% and one of the highest scores across the OECD. Despite the subjective nature of this question, answers have been found to be a good predictor of people’s future health care use. Gender, age and social status may affect answers to this question.

*Sources: OECD Better Life Index and CTV News article: 4 Canadian cities rank high in North American quality of life survey

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