Quality of living

“For a list of all the ways technology has failed to improve the quality of life, please press three.”   ~Alice Kahn

The 2012 Mercer quality of living survey was published this week. For me, it was a confirmation of my feelings about living in Vancouver. In the number 5 position, we value our location and general living conditions in a most favourable light.

Coal Harbour Vancouver 2011

Coal Harbour Vancouver 2011

There is always more to the story, though. In the quality of life index, which ranks countries, Canada does not fare so well overall. Which means, as a Nation, we have many cities that are not getting the benefits that Vancouver enjoys.

The Quality of life index, is made up of the following criteria:

  1. Healthiness: Life expectancy at birth (in years)
  2. Family life: Divorce rate (per 1,000 population)
  3. Community life: Variable taking value 1 if country has either high rate of church attendance or trade-union membership; zero otherwise.
  4. Material well-being: GDP per person, at PPP in $.
  5. Political stability and security: Political stability and security ratings.
  6. Climate and geography: Latitude, to distinguish between warmer and colder climates.
  7. Job security: Unemployment rate (%.)
  8. Political freedom: Average of indexes of political and civil liberties. Scale of 1 (completely free) to 7 (unfree)
  9. Gender equality: Measured using ratio of average male and female earnings

If I were to create an index, the criteria would be different from anything I can see out there. It would be focused on the things that are most important to me. So it begs the question, how can one survey really capture the feelings of a whole population group?

Most happy people have chosen to live in a place for a complicated set of reasons. We will defend those opinions as better than all others, pretty rigorously, even if the facts do not support it.

For example, many people think it rains in Vancouver, all the time. Why would you want to live there? Some people even move away for the main reason that there were just too many days of rain, almost rain, or cloud cover. The flip side to that, is the beauty of living in a rain forest. Everything is so green here. The air smells so fresh. The humidity fills your lungs with moisture. The trees and ocean views are good for the spirit.

As I get older, there is another dimension that comes into play. It is a connection to the land and people. There is a sense of the history and the struggles of those who have come before us. They have helped develop this land to be what we enjoy today. When we are young and when we only look at survey numbers, we don’t have an appreciation for this.