The Herald -The UK offers among the lowest quality of life in Europe despite residents earning the highest incomes, according to research released today.
The price of fuel and other essential goods, below-average spending on health and education, short holidays and late retirement, place Britain just above Ireland at the bottom of the uSwitch.com European quality of life index.
Although British families earn more than Â£10,000 over the European average, they pay the highest prices for diesel, 18% above the average, and the second-highest price for unleaded petrol, 6% more than average.
They also pay 49% more for gas and 5% more for electricity – third-highest in Europe.
UK spending on healthcare and education is below the average, while life expectancy is the third-lowest at 78.9 years, compared to 80.9 in France or 80.7 in Sweden.
Workers have the third-highest retirement age and suffer the shortest holiday entitlement.
The weather adds to the grim tally, with Britain receiving 80% less sunshine than Spain, and 17% less than the European average.
A total of 41,026 residents left the UK in 2006, the highest number in Europe, with total emigration increasing by 30% from the UK since 2001.
The study assessed 19 factors to rank the UK in relation to nine other major countries across Europe.
Spain offers the best quality of life in Europe, despite families earning an annual net income of Â£16,789 – Â£8500 below the average.
The country enjoys low taxation, cheaper goods, higher than average life expectancy and a generous holiday allowance, uSwitch said.
France came second, boasting the second-highest spend on healthcare and the highest holiday allowance at 40 days.
Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at uSwitch.com, said: “Soaring food prices and inflation, not to mention high property costs, are placing the biggest squeeze on disposable incomes.
“British households are facing huge financial pressure as take home pay stagnates, inflation continues to rise, and economic growth and house prices fall.”