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Want a better life? Move here

Australia is the happiest place to live.

The country has retained top spot in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s annual Better Life Index. The OECD ranks the world’s developed economies according to 11 different criteria it views as essential to a happy life.

Australians enjoy low pollution and high levels of personal security. They rank top in civic engagement, and above average in health, housing, social connections, and income.

The downside? Australians find it difficult to strike a balance between work and life. They work some of the longest hours in the developed world, and devote the least time to leisure and personal care, the OECD said.

Sodermalm waterfront, Stockholm, Sweden, Scandinavia, Europe

Sodermalm waterfront, Stockholm, Sweden, Scandinavia, Europe

Sweden has overtaken Norway to claim second place in the ranking. The Scandinavian country ranks top for quality of the environment, and above average in work-life balance, life satisfaction, health, and education.

The OECD has been searching for the key to happiness and well-being for nearly 15 years. A lead researcher with the organization, Romina Boarini, said the Better Life Index takes account of some traditional measures — such as income and employment — but tries to get to the heart of what makes people happy by including other factors

Swedes enjoy high household income and good job security. Sweden’s worst indicator is personal safety. The report said 5.1% of people reported falling victim to assault over the previous 12 months, above the OECD average of 3.9%.

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Buildings of The Barcode Project are reflected on the water at sunset in Oslo on November 18, 2012. The row of new high-rise buildings are part of a redevelopment on former dock and industrial land in central Oslo, due to be completed in 2014. AFP PHOTO / SCANPIX / Cornelius Poppe (Photo credit should read CORNELIUS POPPE/AFP/Getty Images)

Norway slipped one spot to third place compared to last year, but still ranks above average in most criteria.

It is one of the leaders in well-being, which the researchers measure by looking at the more subjective indicators, such as life satisfaction and equality.

The OECD’s Boarini said these “intangible” criteria are important to people’s overall happiness.

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Switzerland ranks fourth overall, and near the top for jobs, health, and life satisfaction.

It has the second highest household income in the index, after the United States.

“Money, while it cannot buy happiness, is an important means to achieving higher living standards,” the report said.

The Better Life Index compares 36 countries based on 11 topics and dozens of criteria.

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Denmark, fifth in the ranking, has the best record for work-life balance and happiness.

Danes are more satisfied with their lives than the OECD average, rating their general satisfaction with life at 7.5 out of 10 points, compared to the average of 6.6 points

The index also lets people assign their own weightings to the criteria, and see how that would affect the rankings.

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The interactive tool helps the researchers determine what makers people happy.

“We ask people to rank the different dimensions of the index, which allows us to understand their priorities,” said Boarini. The rankings published by the OECD assign equal weight to all 11 categories.

Canada, the sixth happiest country, is ranked above average in most criteria.

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The Empire State Building and lower Manhattan can be seen from the 90th story of One World Trade Center in New York, April 30, 2012. New York’s skyline got a new king April 30, 2012 after the still unfinished World Trade Center tower, built to replace the destroyed Twin Towers, crept above the venerable Empire State Building. AFP PHOTO / Pool / Lucas JACKSON (Photo credit should read LUCAS JACKSON/AFP/GettyImages)

The U.S. comes top in income and housing, ranking seventh overall.

It is, however, only average in education, environment, safety, and work-like balance.

Even then, Americans tend to be more satisfied with life compared to people in other OECD countries, the research showed.

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New Zealanders are the healthiest people in the developed world — 90% of people in New Zealand said they were in good health.

Life expectancy stands at 82 years in New Zealand, two years above the OECD average.

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Iceland, ranked ninth in the index, enjoys a very high employment rate, good income levels and above average job security.

Boarini said that people tend to rank education, healthcare and life satisfaction as more important measures than incomes or jobs.

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Finland is the 10th happiest developed country.

It ranks top in education and skills, which are among the criteria highlighted as the most important to overall well-being by the Better Life Index.

Finland is the 10th happiest developed country.

Related: This electric Finnish supercar has 1,341 horsepower

It ranks top in education and skills, which are among the criteria highlighted as the most important to overall well-being by the Better Life Index.

Finland is the 10th happiest developed country.

Related: This electric Finnish supercar has 1,341 horsepower

It ranks top in education and skills, which are among the criteria highlighted as the most important to overall well-being by the Better Life Index.

Finland is the 10th happiest developed country.

Related: This electric Finnish supercar has 1,341 horsepower

It ranks top in education and skills, which are among the criteria highlighted as the most important to overall well-being by the Better Life Index.

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