• Jonathon Allen, CFP®

What gives life meaning?

Last spring, Pew Research asked people in several countries: What aspects of your life do you currently find meaningful, fulfilling or satisfying?

The No. 1 answer (out of the 17 options) in most countries was “family and children.” The exceptions were Spain (health), South Korea (material well-being), and Taiwan (society).

  • In the United States friends ranked second in the hierarchy of things that give life meaning, followed by material well-being.

  • In the United Kingdom, friends ranked second, followed by hobbies.

  • In Australia, New Zealand and Sweden occupation ranked second, followed by friends.

  • In Greece, France and Germany occupation ranked second, followed by health.

  • In Italy, Netherlands and Japan, material well-being ranked second, followed by health.

  • In Canada, occupation ranked second, followed by material well-being.

  • In Belgium and Spain, material well-being ranked second, followed by occupation.

  • In Singapore, occupation ranked second, followed by society.

  • In Taiwan, material well-being ranked second, followed by family and children.

  • In South Korea, health ranked second, followed by family and children.

It’s interesting to note that freedom appears to be widely taken for granted. It was most highly valued in Netherlands where it was mentioned by 20 percent of survey participants. Belgium and New Zealand also ranked it more highly than other nations (15 percent each). Freedom was mentioned least often in the U.K. (5 percent), Singapore (5 percent), and Japan (6 percent).

In the United States, just 9 percent of Americans – fewer than one in 10 – said freedom gives their lives meaning.