Press release, 25 March 2009

Eurofound publishes its Second European Quality of Life Survey (2EQLS)

Three quarters of Spanish people rate their own health as very good or good, ranking Spain second in Europe

Three quarters of Spanish people rate their own health as very good or good, ranking Spain second in Europe, according to the Second European Quality of Life Survey (2EQLS), carried out by Eurofound, the Dublin-based EU Agency. Also, the Spanish rate the quality of and access to their health system as one of the top ten in Europe. One in three people in Spain, however, sense high tension between racial and ethnic groups in the country, while trust in the political system is high, at levels recorded in mainly northern European countries. The survey, to be launched under the Czech EU Presidency in Prague on 25 March, also reveals that Europeans are generally satisfied with their quality of life despite big variations between both levels of life satisfaction and happiness, especially among the 12 new EU Member States.

Four out of five people (81%) across the European Union say that health is very important in determining their quality of life. On the state of their health, more than two out of three people (67%) rate their health as very good or good, one in four (24%) as fair, and one in ten (9%) as bad or very bad. More people in the 12 new EU Member States and the three candidate countries rate their health as ‘bad or very bad’, in particular the women in these countries. Reporting poor health is, not surprisingly, associated with increasing age: in the EU27, fewer than 2% of people aged between 18 and 34 years report bad health, as opposed to 18% of those aged 65 and over. The survey also reveals that a substantial number of Europeans have difficulty in accessing health care services. One in four (25%) report problems because they are too far from their doctor or hospital, while more than two in five (38%) experience delays in getting medical appointments and more than one in four (27%) have difficulty meeting the expense involved in seeing a doctor.

Similarly, the survey reveals that family life is also key to quality of life with seven out of ten people in Europe (68.7%) saying a good family life is very important for quality of life. The survey shows that one in three people across the EU27 (30%) report that they are involved in childcare on a daily basis, with small differences between the NMS12 (33%) and the EU15 (29%). In terms of actual time spent, women report spending 33 hours per week, and men over 18 hours, in caring for and educating children. Women also report spending 18 hours per week cooking and doing housework, as against 10 hours per week for men. One in five (20%) in the EU15 feel that they do more than their fair share of housework, and somewhat less (18%) in the NMS12 and in the CC3 (17%).

The perceived quality of society is another fundamental element of the multidimensional concept of quality of life. The dimensions of societal – and not only individual – well-being are emphasised in the Lisbon Strategy and are a focus of EU social policy. The political and economic impact of the two recent rounds of enlargement can be seen in the income distribution, trust in institutions and social relations. The level of trust in political institutions is lowest in Poland, Hungary, Lithuania and the Czech Republic among the 12 new EU Member States, and in Italy, Portugal and the UK among the EU15 countries. When asked to rate their level of trust in other people in their country on a scale from one to 10, people in the Nordic countries and the Netherlands express the highest levels of trust. People living in Cyprus express the lowest levels of trust, followed by the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

‘The challenges arising from social exclusion, unemployment, an ageing population, changing family structures, new gender roles as well as EU enlargement have pushed quality of life issues to the fore in the EU policy debate,’ says Jorma Karppinen, Eurofound’s Director. ‘The European Quality of Life Survey documents not only living conditions and the economic circumstances of people in Europe, but also how they feel about them, and about the society in which they live.’

In the EQLS, social relations are examined in terms of tension between groups, as well as attitudes towards migrants. In the EU15, the survey shows that the highest levels of tension between men and women and between the young and the old are found in Luxembourg (23% and 25%), followed by Spain (20% and 19%) and Greece (18% and 21%). At the other end of the scale is Denmark (6% and 5%). Among the 12 new Member States, Hungary stands out in this area (20% and 30%), followed by Bulgaria, Cyprus and Malta.

Enabling citizens to develop some balance between family life, personal commitments and working life has become central to the social policy debate. Still, almost half (48%) of citizens in paid employment in the EU27 say that, at least several times a month, they are too tired as a result of their work to do household jobs. The report shows that men and women in the EU27 struggle with work-life balance almost to the same extent. Some 22% of working men state that they are too tired several times a week to do household jobs, while 21% of women report the same problem. Meanwhile, 11% of men find it difficult several times a week to fulfil family responsibilities because of work, as do 10% of women.

The survey shows clearly that people’s material conditions, standard of living and well-being strongly depend on income as well as the economic wealth of the country in which they live. According to the EQLS, about one in four households in the CC3 and one in five in the NMS12 were unable to pay their utility bills on time. These figures are considerably higher than for the EU15, where about one in 10 households were unable to pay their bills on time.

‘In this survey, we have face-to-face interviews with 35,000 people in 31 countries across Europe, which were carried out between November 2007 and February 2008,’ says Robert Anderson, Head of Unit, Living Conditions and Quality of Life team at Eurofound. ‘The survey offers a unique and timely insight into the multidimensional concept of quality of life in Europe and provides information about the standard of living and quality of life of Europeans which is essential for policymakers and interested groups whose aims are to seek improvements in that quality of life.’

The full report is available at www.eurofound.europa.eu/publications/htmlfiles/ef0902.htm

The survey mapping tool, presenting the data from the report in an easily accessible format, is available at www.eurofound.europa.eu/areas/qualityoflife/eqls/eqls2007/results.htm

A resumé is available in all 22 official EU languages at www.eurofound.europa.eu/publications/htmlfiles/ef0852.htm

A press pack on the Quality of Life Survey is available from http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/press/presspack/eqls2007/index.htm

For further information, contact

  • Måns Mårtensson, Press Officer, on email: mma@eurofound.europa.eu, or telephone: +353-1-204 3124 or mobile +353-876-593 507.
  • Teresa Renehan, Information Liaison Officer, on email: ter@eurofound.europa.eu, or telephone: +353-1-204 2126.

Note to the editor
The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) is a tripartite EU body, whose role is to provide key actors in social policymaking with findings, knowledge and advice drawn from comparative research. Eurofound was established by Council Regulation EEC No 1365/75 of 26 May 1975 and is located in Dublin, Ireland.
You can register for regular news and information from Eurofound at: www.eurofound.europa.eu

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