Britain and Ireland have the highest average incomes in Europe but come bottom in terms of quality of life, while Spain and France are at the top of the index, according to a study published Wednesday.
Britons have to pay sky high prices for fuel, food and other essentials, while having among the shortest holidays, latest retirement age and lowest life expectancy, according to the survey of 10 European countries.
Ireland, which like Britain has seen a huge market-driven economic boom over the last decade, is even worse than its bigger neighbor, coming in last in the European Quality of Life Index by U-Switch, a British service comparison website.
"We may earn substantially more than our European neighbors but when it comes to quality of life we remain the sick man of Europe," said Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at uSwitch.com.
"Soaring food prices and inflation, not to mention high property costs, are placing the biggest squeeze on disposable incomes in well over a decade," she added, noting also below-average investment in health and education services.
The study assessed 19 factors affecting quality of life, ranging from income and working conditions to health care, education and cost of living.
Britons have an average net income of more than 35,000 pounds ($70,000) a year, about 10,000 pounds more than the European average, while Ireland comes second on more than 29,000 pounds.
But they pay between six to 18% more for fuel and 49% more for gas, not to mention spectacularly high housing costs. Ireland's gas bills are more than twice the European average.
At work Ireland comes worst in terms of retirement age, with an average of 64.1 years, followed by Britain on 63.2 years, while life expectancy is 78.1 years and 78.9 years respectively, the lowest barring Italy.
At the other end of the scale, Spaniards have the lowest average income, at some 16,800 pounds, but low taxation and cheaper essential goods prices put them at the top of the overall quality of life indicator.
France comes second, notably benefiting from the longest holidays in Europe at 40 days and the second-lowest retirement age at 58.9 years, just later than Poles who retire at 58.4 years old on average.
The findings come as Britain and Ireland face a sharp economic slowdown fueled by the global credit crunch, which is also threatening other European countries although they have enjoyed less of a boom in recent years.© Wire reports