Norwegians enjoy the world's best quality of life, followed by Icelanders and Australians, according to an updated global league table book, while Africa dominates the bottom of the list.
Australians drink the most alcohol, Greeks smoke the most cigarettes, Japan reads the most newspapers and Ecuador has the most murders per head of population, according to The Economist's Pocket World in Figures 2008.
It adds that Japan has the world's largest proportion of elderly people with 26 percent of its population over 60, while tiny European country Luxembourg has the highest GDP per capita.
183 countries compared
While the United States and Japan remain the biggest economies, they rank eighth and seventh respectively in the quality-of-life stakes, according to the book, which compares some 183 countries.
Britain, which is the world's fifth biggest economy, fares even worse, at 17th in the "human development" index, which the book says denotes quality of life.
Africa at bottom of list
At the bottom of the scale comes the west African state of Niger, while Sierra Leone, Mali and a string of other countries from the continent fill virtually all the last 20 positions.
On the environment front, the United States again tops the list of the world's biggest producers of carbon emissions with some 4 800 million tonnes, followed by China on 4 140 million. Russia comes in third place on 1 500 million tonnes.
The book, which is put together by the influential British magazine, also reveals a string of interesting facts about lifestyle trends.
Czechs drink most beer
Australians drink the most alcohol overall, although the famously brewery-friendly Czechs drink the most beer per capita and Portugal imbibes the most wine.
On crime, Ecuador has 18.3 murders per 100 000 inhabitants, followed by Swaziland on 13.6 and Mongolia on 12.8.
The United States has by far the biggest prison population with 2.2 million behind bars, while China carries out by the far the most executions – 3 400 in 2004.
South Africa highest house price inflation rate
Some of the economic figures could raise eyebrows, especially in The Economist's home country.
For example, house price inflation, which has rocketed in Britain in recent years, is actually highest in South Africa, where prices rose 351 percent from 1997-2006, followed by Ireland on 253 percent and Britain on 196 percent.
Quality of life
Top: 1. Norway; 2. Iceland; 3. Australia; 4. Ireland; 5. Sweden.
Bottom: 1. Niger; 2. Sierra Leone; 3. Mali; 4. Burkina Faso; 5. Guinea-Bissau.
Alcohol consumption (litres per head of population per year)
Most: 1. Australia 99.2; 2. Czech Republic 98.2; 3. Germany 96.2; 4. Finland 92; 5 Austria 87.8.
Life expectancy (years)
Highest: Andorra 83.5; Japan 82.6; Hong Kong 82.2; Iceland 81.8; Switzerland 81.7. – (Sapa)
Aussie outback booze capital