European Quality of Life

Eurofound (2017), European Quality of Life Survey 2016: Quality of life, quality of public services, and quality of society, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.

Nearly 37,000 people in 33 European countries (28 EU Member States and 5 candidate countries) were interviewed in the last quarter of 2016 for the fourth wave of the European Quality of Life Survey by Eurofound. An overview report presents the findings for the EU Member States.

It uses information from previous survey rounds, as well as other research, to look at trends in quality of life against a background of the changing social and economic profile of European societies. Ten years after the global economic crisis, it examines well-being and quality of life broadly, to include quality of society and public services.

The findings indicate that differences between countries on many aspects are still prevalent – but with more nuanced narratives. Each Member State exhibits certain strengths in particular aspects of well-being, but multiple disadvantages are still more pronounced in some societies than in others; and in all countries significant social inequalities persist. 


  • Overall, there has been progress in quality of life in the EU from 2011 to 2016, with some dimensions having recovered to the pre-crisis levels of 2007. A decrease in material hardship and increase in satisfaction with standard of living occurred across all income quartiles in comparison to 2011. However, the level of difficulties in making ends meet is still higher in seven countries than it was before the crisis in 2007. In 11 countries, more than half of the population report difficulties in making ends meet.

  • Country differences in terms of quality of life remain extensive, but these are nuanced and cannot simply be captured in homogeneous country clusters. Nonetheless, multiple disadvantages are still more pronounced in some societies than in others. 

  • Life satisfaction in the EU over the last decade has remained at a relatively high level: 7.1 on average on a 1–10 point scale in 2016. It increased between 2011 and 2016 in some Member States, especially in Hungary, Estonia and the UK, while satisfaction with standard of living increased most in Hungary, Bulgaria, Estonia and Poland. In Greece, Italy and Spain, life satisfaction declined during this period, which continues a downward trend evident from before the economic crisis. 

  • Ratings for the quality of public services have increased overall; in particular, satisfaction with healthcare and childcare improved in several countries where ratings were previously low. The perceived quality of public services still varies markedly across Member States, and people in lower income groups report less improvement in the quality of services.

  • In urban neighbourhoods, more people have become concerned about air quality. With regard to neighbourhood services, inadequate access to recycling facilities is among the issues highlighted, while access to banking in rural areas is a problem in some countries. Compared to the previous survey, a lower proportion of people in the 2016 EQLS feel close to others in their local area; this is especially the case in rural areas, where this dimension is important for social inclusion. 

  • There is a general improvement in quality of society indicators, including a decline in feelings of social exclusion, an increase in participation in clubs, societies or associations, and increased trust in national institutions. In particular, young people (18–24 years) registered the highest increase in trust in other people, possibly indicative of a new cohort less scarred by the crisis.

  • Perceptions of tension between poor and rich people, management and workers, and old and young have decreased; on the other hand, rising tensions between different religious and ethnic groups are reported and – although to a lesser extent – tensions between people of different sexual orientation. 

  • There are persistent inequalities on some indicators and it is clear that the rising tide of the post-crisis recovery has not lifted all citizens equally. For lowincome groups, improvements on several dimensions were more limited in terms of overall quality of public services, perception of social exclusion and risk to mental health (women in the lowest income quartile being consistently at higher risk over the last decade). However, the selfreported health of the population, which had deteriorated in the aftermath of the crisis, is now better than it was in 2007, including in the lowest income quartile. 

  • There are a range of insecurities and uncertainties expressed. These include a decrease in certainty about being able to retain one’s own accommodation, substantial concerns about having insufficient income in one’s old age in two-thirds of Member States – with 13% of people in the EU extremely worried about this – and, in a number of countries, less optimism about the future of one’s children in comparison to one’s own future. 


The European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS) is an established tool for monitoring and analysing quality of life in the EU. Carried out in 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2016, the EQLS documents the living conditions and social situation of European citizens. It includes subjective and objective measures: reported attitudes and preferences, as well as resources and experiences.

Eurofound’s approach recognises that ‘quality of life’ is a broad concept and encompasses individual well-being as well as the quality of public services and quality of society. The current report provides an overview of multiple dimensions: it examines subjective well-being, standard of living and aspects of deprivation, care responsibilities and work–life balance; healthcare, long-term care, childcare and other public services; and social insecurity, social exclusion and societal tensions, trust, and participation and community engagement.

This report covers the 28 EU Member States. It uses 2016 EQLS data and information from previous survey rounds as well as other research to assess trends in European societies. Ten years after the global economic crisis, it reviews social progress and aims to identify remaining or emerging challenges. Policy context The policy agenda at EU level increasingly emphasises the importance of the social dimension of Europe in cohesion and convergence.

The EQLS provides a means to measure outcomes of progress, such as well-being and social inclusion. A range of data can serve to complement the social indicators used to monitor policy outcomes, particularly regarding implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights. Many aspects of quality of life are determined at national and local levels, and the survey evidence regarding country differences can be an impetus for further analysis by Member States and, also, for mutual learning.

The survey’s comprehensive coverage of the EU informs reflection on convergence and divergence across the Union.

For more information read the full report here