It's a Small World After All

Deals with a survey of different nationalities around the world on the top requirements for a good life. Emphasis on simple things.

By Camille Chatterjee, published May 1, 2000 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016


What constitutes a good life? Is it sex or a good relationship with your family? According to a survey of 15 countries around the world, the top universal requirements for a high quality of living are a lot simpler than that.

Michael Power, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry at the University of Edinburgh, developed a questionnaire for the World Health Organization that would allow citizens around the world to rate from 1 to 10 (1 being not important, 10 being crucial) the factors they believed to be paramount for a satisfying, comfortable life. Power distributed his survey, called the World Health Organization Quality of Life Survey, to people in cities from Seattle, Washington, to Harare, Zimbabwe. Their responses suggested that people are thankful for the simple things: The top four elements of a good life were daily living activities (being able to go about one's business independently and free of physical burdens); being able to see and hear well; to have energy; and to have mobility. The bottom two necessities: body image and appearance, and satisfaction with one's sex life.

Power, who reported his findings in the journal Health Psychology, says he's surprised that sexual activity was rated least important by people around the world, "even the French." After all, the satisfaction and self-esteem boost that come from a good sex life and a healthy body image would seem to be essential to psychological satisfaction, especially in Western cultures. But the top items on the survey show, he says, that even in the most materialistic societies, most of us are grateful for the basic physical functions that allow us to live and breathe from day to day.