Skip to main content

uSwitch Quality of Life Index: Is the UK the worst place to live?

We like the rain!

The uSwitch Quality of Life Index revealed the ten best and worst countries to live in in Europe.

The UK came out bottom.

The reasons?

  • Long working hours.
  • Low number of holiday days a year.
  • Expensive food, high energy prices.
  • Higher than average petrol costs.
  • High retirement age.
  • Lack of sunshine.

Coming out on top were France and Spain , while Sweden and Ireland joined UK in the bottom three.

We asked a few people around the office what they thought about these findings, and whether the UK really is the worst place to live?

A surprising number seem to disagree,  saying they think England isn’t really that bad.

Do you agree with the results of the Quality of Life index? What makes living in the UK so bad?

  • Kenneth McKay

    Could I have the complete list of countries, please?

    • Helen uSwitch

      Hi Kenneth,

      Here’s the complete list:


  • How can you publish a list which does not include all european Countries especially when you have left out those very countries which have always come top in a ‘Quality of life survey’. You cannot be so selective ignoring Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Belgium. Vienna for example was voted the best place to live in in 2011 followed by two swiss cities.

    • Helen uSwitch

      Hi Peter,

      Thanks for your comments.

      When we began running the Quality of Life Index, around four years ago, we selected the 10 countries listed. In order to remain consistent and be able to compare data year on year, we have had to continue using data from the same 10 countries. Those countries were initially selected, I believe, on the basis that they are our closest European neighbours. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be feasible to compile data for the whole of Europe. It is probably also important just to reiterate that it is an index as opposed to a survey.

      You raise a very good point, and I think it would be incredibly interesting to see the results of an index for the whole of Europe.

      I hope that sheds a little more light.


      • Paul Dobson

        If you know you’re only looking at partial data, why do yo title your article “UK is the worst place to live in Europe”. It’s misleading and allows newspaper editors to write headlines which don’t reflect the real picture.

        • Maya Robert

          Hi Paul!

          A little bit of poetic license, perhaps:) In our defence, all of our data is published so you can see exactly what the survey is based on:


          Maya, uSwitch

  • AndyKn

    This survey is deeply flawed. The primary reason the UK does badly is that you count income only once (where the UK does very well) but expenses multiple times. So if you’d like to earn a lot less and only pay a bit less for utilities and fuel (and get more sun) go to Spain.

    • Helen uSwitch

      Hi Andy,

      I do get what you are saying, I think But, it is only possible to count income once. (And that is the net income of a household.) I’m not sure how else we could do it? If you have ideas would love to hear them…

      It might be worth looking at my response to Matthew for more detail on how it’s all weighted.

      Hope that’s a bit clearer.


      • Anonymous

        Thanks for the reply. I understand how it’s weighted and scored, the problem is that you are counting expenditure multiple times and income only once.

        The best way would be to just use disposable income. Gross family income minus the expenditure items you currently score separately. Alternatively just add up all the expenditure items and score the total. If the net income already takes the costs into account that you then count again that’s even worse.

        To use reductio ad absurdum, if the UK were compared with a country that had a far lower income but only slightly cheaper gas, electric, diesel and petrol then the other country would win on just those measures. This is patently absurd.

      • drcoops

        I agree with this point – you need to take into account that higher income means that the higher price of goods is offset. So if it costs 2000GBP more to live in the UK but average wages are 4000GBP higher than elsewhere then overall you are better off than somewhere that costs 1000GBP less to live but where your annual salary is 6000GBP lower. What you need to do is to create an intermediate cost of living index which essentially combines all the costs you identify and divides them by the average income. That way, higher living costs that are divided by higher wages are equated with lower living costs with lower wages (e.g. living is 5, salary is 5 = 5/5 = 1; vs living cost is 10 but salary is 10 = 10/10 = 1. If living costs are higher (e.g. 10) but income does not compensate sufficiently (e.g. 5), then your index changes is a way that makes sense (here 10/5 = 2, meaning it is twice as expensive to live in the last country.

  • Anonymous

    Could you tell us how each category is weighted in the final result? Are they weighted the same for each country?

  • matthew

    Could you tell us how each category is weighted in the final total? Is it the same for each country?

  • Anonymous

    I think it’s fair to say that we have atrocious weather and we do work longer hours than other in Europe but there are a bunch of other criteria by which I measure my quality of life which do not appear here. What about the variety of music, arts, culture, food (yes food!) and people to be found in the UK? This adds to my quality of life. OK the fact that I’m from London biases things somewhat but I’ve lived in lots of different places, most recently Barcelona for a year which I loved, but London has something extra and the fact that London is in the UK means that the UK cannot be the worst place to live in Europe. Plus the fact that it’s probably the number one destination for visitors and migrants to Europe means it can’t be all that bad. I think basically that the criteria need to be expanded. If you must keep those criteria and countries for the sake of comparison so be it but perhaps you can start a new, more comprehensive study which form the basis for future comparisons.

    • Anonymous

      Food in the UK? Please, travel a bit more and experience authentic local cuisines, and you will then realise that food in the UK is a cheap, westernised flavourless imitation at best, or a MacDonalised mass product at worst.

      • Anonymous

        Yes food in the UK. I have travelled a lot. I’m Sierra Leonean in origin but was born in London and have lived in New York and Barcelona and have travelled more widely in Asia, South and Central and South America as well as Europe, Africa and North America. I may be speaking for London but I can’t think of anywhere in Europe where you can step outside your door and sample a variety of foods from different countries and able to access ingredients from all over the world to try cooking other cuisines. If you know where to look you don’t end up with a “cheap westernised mess” at all.

      • Fatima

        Yes food in the UK. I have travelled a lot and enjoyed food from all over. I’m Sierra Leonean in origin but was born in London and have lived in New York and Barcelona and have travelled more widely in Asia, South and Central and South America as well as Europe, Africa and North America. I may be speaking for London but I can’t think of anywhere in Europe where you can step outside your door and sample a variety of foods from different countries and able to access ingredients from all over the world to try cooking other cuisines. If you know where to look you don’t end up with a “cheap westernised mess” at all.

      • Anonymous

        I’m Greek in origin, born there and every Greek restaurant food I’ve tried in the UK (and have tried lots) is not worth giving to your dog because the ingredients are locally sourced. You can’t beat a proper sun ripened tomato with a hormone grown one from a greenhouse in Kent. I doubt you’ve ever tasted one, ever. Same with fruit, all veg except roots, meat and fish. Tasteless, plastic produce.

      • F

        You doubt I’ve ever tasted locally sourced fresh ingredients, ever? Really? I’m a perfect stranger yet you make such personal statements based on a few lines on a forum. Are you actually interested in debate or are you trying to be offensive? If the latter then I’ll leave you to it. If the former then I’ll say it’s not a contest between who has the best ingredients. I’m sure that Greece has great local produce. It’s true that good produce is harder to find in the UK at a reasonable price. My point is about the variety to be found in London both in ingredients and in restaurants, art, music, culture and people. These criteria, which have not been measured here increase my quality of life and make the UK far from the worse place to live in Europe to me. You of course are entitled to disagree.

      • Anonymous

        You say “It’s true that good produce is harder to find in the UK at a reasonable price.”

        Thanks, that sums it up for me. From my own experience of more than a decade living in the UK and comparing produce from my home country in the Med, I can confidently go further and change your statement to “good produce is nearly impossible to find in the UK at any price”.

  • Even if the quality of life in London isn’t great, the job opportunities are plentiful and the reason why so many people move here. If I could choose where I could live in Europe I’d like a smallholding in Devon, the UK is such a beautiful country. It is easy to find other countries appealing when you’re not very familiar with them, but it’s not always easy integrating with another culture.

  • Josh Davis

    Britain isn’t the worst place to live at all. Amazing variety of food and culture here. A French high street consists of Brasserie, Brasserie, Brasserie… Brasserie.

    • Helen uSwitch

      You’re right, we definitely can’t complain about food and culture in Britain, even if it is also great in Europe. The index does admittedly lean towards the negatives, and might highlight some of the not so good things about living in the UK, but hopefully in doing so, it also encourages people (like yourself) to say ‘hang on’ and then go on to talk about the things that are good! (Generally speaking, we British do like a moan, just every now and then.) Thanks for your comment!

  • matthew

    AndyKn is making the same point as I am. So can you tell us what the weightings of each category is?

    I know it’s only meant to be a ‘bit of fun’ but newspapers such as Guardian and Mail are treating it seriously.

    • Helen uSwitch

      Hi Matthew,

      Thanks for your comment.

      We are completely transparent about where the index information comes from. Every aspect of that is detailed in the press releases from which the newspapers such as the Guardian write their stories. We have also included information at the end of our news story.

      It is equally weighted for each country. The below caveat should provide more detail in regards to how the research is carried out…

      1. Quality of Life Index –Opinium Research carried out an online survey of 2,036 UK adults aged 18+ from 26th to 29th August 2011. Results have been weighted to nationally representative criteria with further analysis conducted by based on the below standardisation methodology:

      A standardised score for each variable across each country was calculated based on the following: Standardised score = (raw score – average)/standard deviation. For example, average net income across all countries is £32,147 and the standard deviation (average distance from the mean) was £10,280. Net income in Denmark is £39,221. Standardised score = (39,221 – 32,147)/ 10,280= 0.69. As this represents the distance between the raw score and the average, when the standardised score is negative, the raw score falls below the mean, and when positive, the score falls above. Overall Quality of Life is defined as the sum of the standardised scores.

  • Andy

    I think the title is misleading, particularly how it is being presented to the media.
    It isn’t Europe, it is your select list.
    Some of the links to your sources used no longer work, so we can’t for example check that the Sun hours
    you have actually used represent the actual hours. A recent German TV programme stated that the UK has more sun hours than Germany and i was hoping to confirm your details.
    The manner in which you have merged the beer and wine consumption creates the impression (which is then reproduced in the data you have used) that the UK spends way in excess of what is expected.
    During the comparison what exchange rate was used when comparing prices between the Eurozone and the UK?

  • Anonymous

    I Lived in London 2007-2008 and i had a great experience, working in a pub in south kensington, livinig in nothing hill, and i always have time to the party and enough money to live i think there is the best place to get experience and live, wish to go back one day¡¡

  • Anonymous

    Thank you uSwitch. Also, the Human Deelopemnt Index listing might also give a more “complete” picture to those who wish to see how Britain compares against the rest of the developed countries.

    You know,

    I don’t mind working long hours.
    I don’t mind commuting for 2 hours a day stacked in a train like cattle with frequent severe delays.
    I don’t mind rush-hour motorway jams.

    But iwhen on top of this you add:

    Exceptionally poor and overrated food that is all about the looks rather than quality of flavour
    People drowning their misery in a 5pm binge-drinking race
    Youth/gang violence
    Poor NHS service
    Outrageously expensive childcare
    Days on weeks on months of dull, grey skies and rain

    Britain inevitably becomes nothing short of depressing.

  • When folk are so ready to denigrate the UK, it is refreshing to read some of the comments above from people passionately challenging the conclusion of this study.

    For all it’s faults, I, too, love living in the U.K.

    But hey, lighten up, folks – all this questioning of the methodology employed in this survey, with a view to challenging the validity of the results, is only relevant if the criteria applied to data obtained from the UK differed from that applied in the other European countries. This was a comparative study. If there were faults in the design of the study and the collection of the data, the results and conclusions are not invalidated as long as the research design and collection of data was uniform across the different countries

    • AndyKn

      That’s not true. Income is only counted once and costs are counted multiple times. That biases the whole survey to countries with overall lower standards of living. Ranking countries in alphabetical order would mean the “research design and collection of data was uniform across the different countries” but still put the UK at the bottom.

  • nporter

    Surely the fact that alcohol and cigarettes are priced high should be a positive factor and not a negative factor. encouraging people not to smoke or drink excessively would seem like a good idea to me.

  • drcoops

    Its also true that there is an odd mix of data here, badly mashed:
    1. Apparently, its better to have a high spend, low tax country (a recipe for Greek debt crisis… surely)
    2. Employment doesn’t matter erm…(Spain unemployment rate is 21.2%, France 9.9%, UK 7.8%, Germany 6.1%)
    3. They’ve used no use of readily available output measures on education and health outcomes. E.g. Out of these countries, Spain and UK come out best (i.e. lowest) for suicide, whereas France is down with Poland. UK is 4th out of these countries for comparable reading, writing and maths outcomes, according the OECD data etc etc… On the basis of lower education spending (4 lowest education spending as % of GDP, and 3rd lowest health spending)

    But I suppose this is all good advertising: abuse social science stats for commercial gain… I guess it means you shouldn’t really trust uSwitches analysis of comparisons across energy companies if they can’t get this stuff right…

    • Maya Robert

      Although we welcome opinion on our survey, I’d just like to make clear that our energy comparison service is governed by Consumer Focus, which ensures it is both accurate and completely impartial.

  • adam

    What’s the point of listing the cost of things in absolute terms when the key indicator is the percentage of income ? For example a litre of fuel is 400% more expensive in real terms in Poland than the UK.

    I’ve done a trawl through the international press and they report the conclusions without showing the methodology. USwitch should hang their heads in shame at such a lamely done survey !

  • SP

    I think everyone need to take this with a pinch of salt. Uswitch aren’t a social resaerch company,but they don’t claim to be either.
    I don’t think anyone’s suggesting that this is the definitive view on quality of life in Europe – it’s just a snapshot created for PR purposes.
    At least uSwitch are showing how they worked it all out, rather than trying to hide it.

  • Anonymous

    After seeing these potential TV stars in uSwitch I feel threatened. If we get any bids for TV this weekend I think one of them should do it. Ann

  • Harry

    I think this sums it up. ‘Every country is best at something.’

    I take no responsibility for the data, how it’s collated or weighted etc, so please don’t interrogate it !

    Nothing is black and white. The best place to live for one person is never going to be the same for another person…

    So lighten up!

    See this for what it is. Have a chuckle, have a moan…
    and then go out in the sunshine… What is 100 per cent not up for debate is the fact that it is a beautiful day!

  • ana

    If my country would be considered you would definitely take it back that UK is the worst. In Romania wages are extremely low, to my knowledge 500 euros/month on average, prices are far higher than people can afford to pay including electricity, petrol and food. Not to mention rent which is around 250-300 euros/month + bills… Also most Romanians have to work over time for which they hardly get paid, they too get around 28 days of holidays per year, a high retirement age and a low life expectancy…and so on and so forth. I’ve been living in Scotland for the past 3 years and I disagree with this index result as from what I have seen Scottish people have quite a happy life!

    • Anonymous

      Ana, I am a Scot who has lived and worked in Romania for 3 years. I agree 100% that the average Romanian works hard and has poor prospects in a beautiful country. The main problem is the huge amount of corruption in government central/local and business. Corruption is happening here now in a big way, see the Edinburgh fiasco with Trams and Building Control, Government with News of the World scandal, MOD contracts debacle and Kowtowing to bankers, etc.. Glad you are enjoying living here. Cu stima

  • p brammer

    If its so bad here in the UK? Why is it so many people want to come here to live?? Or is it for the hand outs
    they get??

  • Hi, I believe that we live in one of the greatest Countries in the the world. The sad thing is that we keep
    on electing idiots to run it for us, and now look at the consequences. We have arrived at the point where
    we have 35000 people a day fed by charities and a situation with the grasping Energy Companies that
    dictates that Families and many Pensioners will have to choose between eating and keeping warm this
    Winter; this is happening as we send billions of Pounds abroad to support Countries that do not need Aid.
    The same old story. The poor get poorer !! We are certainly NOT ‘in it altogether’. It is up to the people
    to take a real interest in whats happening and take the trouble to get out there and find someone decent
    to vote for, bearing in mind that our Democracy at the moment has worn very thin.
    Regards, Tony.

  • Anonymous

    It’s rotten with crime (x8 higher than anywhere else in Europe), choked with illegal immigrants/benefits tourists, wildly overpriced – and the weather’s rotten 95% of the year too. I can’t think of a single reason to live here, I’d leave tomorrow if I could.

  • Mike

    I think the survey would be instructive if it split the UK into 2 categories: including and excluding London. In my opinion, London is a national disgrace, especially to others visiting the country or on holiday. It epitomises a get-rich-quick culture, is vastly more expensive to live, skews the overall picture with national media bias, is hopelessly overcrowded and has choked roads and overcrowded public transport with inflated commuter costs. There is also overspill on these dubious ethics ino most other urban conurbations, I detect. Thankfully there are many other nicer places still left to live in this sceptered isle, but also at risk from contamination by big city “ethics”.
    End of opinion…

  • DavidF

    You claim “Food prices are harmonised consumer prices” without stating the source. I fear you may not have been in a French or Italian supermarket recently – food is much cheaper in the UK since the pound fell against the Euro. It’s perhaps because we have more special offers, or perhaps you’re not using a current exchange rate, but I doubt – even challenge you to prove – your food price data. (Either that, or you need to tell me where to shop for food in France!)

  • Mr.A Calisiam

    Rip off Briton? we get ripped of on all-most every thing we buy or use,we are being over controlled by people who think that they are special, because they had a private education,I have not worked since labour brought in all cheap labour from india europe africa etc etc,i have had to survive on unemployment,for more than ten years, due to my age,thankyou Blair another prat who bailed out and sold us out and spent most of the money reserves, and lied through his crooked teeth,then handed over command to another idiot from Scotland,? who finished off spending the rest off the money reserves,? most MPs have been helping them selves to funds for years not happy with £200k per year? it is no wonder the youth of to-day are rioting to better them selves,and being sent to prison for showing there frustration?how many MPs went to prison ?? British is a word of the past, in a colonised country,we won the fight but lost the finicial crooks who are alawed to manipulate and rip of the public in many ways, were the police turn a blind eye? My advice move to another country were there are less theaves to feed???

  • Having spoken to a tax office in Hillerod, Denmark only last year and was told I would get the rest of my pension when I was 65yrs, so unless they have decreased their retirement age since your information on retirement age for women at least is incorrect.

  • Anonymous

    I left the UK 3 years ago to live in Bulgaria and I have to say that I have no wish to live in the UK again. Yes the people here are poor like in Romania but basically they are happy and always ready to help each other out. Family is very important here with grandparents supporting their children and looking after the kids – very much like the UK was 50 years ago. It is a far more laid back and less stressful way of life. Okay we dont have the variety of take away food that you have in the UK but if you want something that bad then you just learn to cook it. We have lots of sunshine, very little traffic, free wi fi in all towns, high speed internet and TV for less than you pay for your TV licence. Now if only they could sort out the corruption in the government, reapair the roads ind increase employment it would be pretty much perfect!!!!

  • Anonymous

    Another thing that gets me ‘hot under the collar’ is spelling!

  • Michael Wells

    Hello uSwitch,

    ” Hot under the COLLER ” . Switch on the spell checker, Please !

    Michael Wells.

  • Nat

    We moved to France 7 years ago. My husband is French. We left the UK where I was a teacher and he worked in IT. Our yearly income was plus £50K.
    We sold up, and now own outright our house which has made a HUGE difference to our lives. Hubby has retrained as an electrician (funded by the French government, and with remuneration monthly for the 9 month course). We now run our own business and although social charges are enormous here (51% on your yearly profit) we are in control. I stay at home with our little boy and deal with paperwork etc, and hubby goes out to work each day.
    We are most certainly poorer than we have ever been. But our life quality is SO much better, our son is growing up with his mummy at home, he has 2 acres of garden to play in, plentiful sunshine to enjoy the garden and as we have so much outside space we have our own chickens and a large veggie plot. So we eat better, live better and have so much less stress than we ever dealt with on the daily grind in the UK, so I can see why this poll has come up with the results it has.

  • Anonymous

    So you have not picked the whole of Europe just the bits that fit your survey, I live in both France and the UK and the UK is much, much cheaper for food, clothes, eating out, theatre. As for the sunshine S.E.England is just as sunny as much of France.

  • Antony John

    You’re kidding me?
    Only someone insensitive,totally lacking in perception,or just plain wearing rose tinted spectacles could possibly fail to aknowledge what a truly abysmal,dire,and miserable country England especially is to reside in.The climate on its own is enough to drive the depressed hoards to throw themselves off cliffs…any truth uswitch that Britain has more people on px anti-depressants,than anywhere else in Europe?
    And what about that population density…office of national statistics 62 million (yeh right) combined census carried out by supermarkets,based on food sales-est 76 million.No wonder there always seems to be someone in your face.Oh! but the real gem…the killer punch,that will ensure that it will never get any better here is the fact that when you combine public,and private debt,it is the most indebted nation in the WORLD.
    In about two years ‘we’ are off, taking our capital,and pensions with us.
    You are welcome to Britain-you really are.
    Best of luck those in for the long haul-you really are going to need it.

    google the ‘uk debt clock’……frightening stuff!

  • Lucy Ellis

    I live in Southern France, food prices are far higher than the UK (cartel of supermarkets – keep getting fines but nothing changes), Christmas holiday is a one day holiday, diesel today was €1.51 and in February we had -16 for the whole month. On top of this we are the most miserable nation in the EU. Reason why it is top of the list – voted for by people who do not live her

  • Cheers Shook, I’d loads of fun writing the actual posts way as well