Slow growth does not necessarily equate with low or lower wellbeing. Scandinavia is a case in point. It’s a slow-growing region with a GDP forecast for this year hovering around 2 percent (from a high of 2.5 percent in Sweden to a low of 1.1 percent in Norway). Yet northern Europe is a poster child in terms of wellbeing, and it offers what is probably the best quality of life in human history.
Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Sweden rank respectively 1, 2, 3, 4 and 9 in this year’s World Happiness Report. Similarly, 8 of the 11 highest-ranked countries in the UN’s Human Development Index are in northern Europe. It’s the same thing for economic equality (a key indicator of societal wellbeing): Twenty-two of the world’s 23 most equal countries are European. In addition, northern Europe achieves all of this on less than half the US carbon emissions per capita. One could go and on, but the bottom line is this: Once a certain level of economic welfare is achieved, wellbeing ceases to correlate with GDP growth.