For members


RANKED: The regions in Spain with the best and worst quality of life

Which places in Spain are the best for work and healthcare matters? Where are people most unsatisfied with education and public services? We’ve crunched the official data to unveil the regions in Spain with the best and worst quality of life according to their inhabitants. 

RANKED: The regions in Spain with the best and worst quality of life
A satellite view of the Iberian peninsula seen from space. Which one of Spain's 17 autonomous communities offers the best quality of life. Photo: NASA

Let’s face it – quality of life is subjective. For some, it’s how often the sun shines and whether they can buy a coffee for under €1, for others it’s how well public services work or how long they have to wait to see a doctor. 

International evaluators of quality of life such as the OECD’s Better Life Index, the World Happiness Report and the Social Progress Index usually rank Scandinavian countries, Switzerland, Australia and other wealthy nations among the best. 

Spain tends to rank between 20th and 30th position in such studies, although in the HSBC Expat Explorer Survey Spain is consistently among the five best countries to move to for foreigners, scoring especially high for “quality of life”, “physical & mental wellbeing”, “cultural, open and welcoming communities”, “political stability” and “ease of settling in”.

But what do Spaniards think? And which regions are the best and worst to live in in their eyes?

Spain’s National Statistics Institute (INE) uses 60 indicators to assess how Spain’s 17 autonomous communities stack up against each other. 

That’s certainly a lot, but before we find out which places offer the best “calidad de vida” (quality of life) in Spain, let’s quickly have a look at the rates that have been assessed in order to get a clearer picture of what is being judged.

  • Disposable income available
  • Population at risk of poverty 
  • Inequality 
  • Household income satisfaction
  • Difficulty making ends meet 
  • Material deficiency 
  • Certain deficiencies 
  • Lack of space at home 
  • High spending on housing 
  • Satisfaction with housing
  • Impossibility of dealing with unforeseen expenses 
  • Payment delays
  • Employment rate
  • Unemployment rate
  • Long-term unemployment
  • Involuntary part-time employment 
  • Low salaries 
  • Long work hours (40 to 48 hours)
  • Temporary work rate
  • Job satisfaction
  • Life expectancy at birth 
  • Good or very good self-perceived state of health 
  • Chronic morbidity 
  • People with severe or limited limitations in daily activity 
  • Unmet health care needs 
  • Body mass index 
  • Daily smokers 
  • Regular physical exercise 
  • Sedentary lifestyle 
  • Level of work training among total population (youth and adults)
  • Early school dropout rate
  • Continuous training rate
  • Satisfaction with available time
  • Cinema attendance rate
  • Cultural interest attendance rate(monuments, museums)
  • Theater, concerts attendance rate
  • Live sports attendance rate
  • Low frequency of meetings with friends, family or colleagues
  • Average satisfaction with personal relationships 
  • Availability of family, friends or neighbours to whom to ask for help 
  • Availability of someone to talk to about personal matters
  • Trust in others 
  • Homicide rate 2020
  • Crime rate 2020 
  • Crime or vandalism 2020 
  • Safety walking alone at night 
  • Average trust in the political system
  • Average trust in the judicial system 
  • Average trust in the police 
  • Participation in political activities 
  • Pollution and other environmental problems 
  • Noise pollution
  • Air quality 
  • Satisfaction with green areas and recreational areas 
  • Satisfaction with the environment 
  • Overall satisfaction with life 
  • Rate of happiness over the last four weeks
  • Satisfaction with meaning and purpose of life 

So obviously INE’s data covers a huge range of factors which constitute to a greater or lesser extent what makes a fulfilling and happy life (we’ll summarise it a more digestable manner below). 

But first, which Spanish regions scored highest and lowest overall in these quality of life categories? Here’s the full ranking from best to worst:

  1. Navarre
  2. Aragón
  3. La Rioja
  4. Basque Country
  5. Balearic Islands
  6. Cantabria
  7. Madrid
  8. Castilla y León
  9. Asturias
  10. Catalonia
  11. Galicia
  12. Valencia region
  13. Extremadura
  14. Castilla-La Mancha
  15. Murcia
  16. Canarias
  17. Andalusia
Redín Square in Pamplona, the capital of Navarre, the region in Spain which ranks highest for quality of life according to INE stats. Photo: Sergio Garrido/Unsplash
Redín Square in Pamplona, the capital of Navarre, the region in Spain which ranks highest for quality of life according to INE stats. Photo: Sergio Garrido/Unsplash

It seems that overall northern regions offer a better quality of life than southern autonomous communities, according to their inhabitants.

In terms of material belongings (in other words, owning anything from a car to your own home and having the income or savings to afford them), the Basque Country comes first in Spain followed by Aragón, Navarre and La Rioja. On the other side of the spectrum are Murcia, Andalusia and the Canary Islands. 

As for work matters (everything from wages to employment and training options) Aragón, the Basque Country and the Balearics are the top three regions whereas the Canary Islands, Extremadura and Andalusia are last. 

READ ALSO: Where are workers’ salaries highest and lowest in Spain?

Regarding health matters, and we’re starting to see a trend here, Navarre, the Basque Country and Aragón are top and Murcia, the Canary Islands and Andalusia are last.

Vis-a-vis education, the Basque Country, Navarre and Madrid lead the rankings and Extremadura, Castilla-La Mancha and Andalusia trail way behind. 

In terms of leisure and free time, the offering and the time availability is best once again in Navarre, the Balearics and La Rioja and worst in, you guessed it, the Canaries, Murcia and Andalusia. 

In terms of crime, Cantabria, Asturias and Galicia are the safest and Murcia, Catalonia and Madrid have the most crime problems. 

For environmental issues, the inhabitants of Navarre, Castilla y León and Cantabria are satisfied with the state of their nature and green spaces but people in Andalusia, the Canary Islands and Murcia not so much. 

And as for the overall life satisfaction levels, the people of the Balearic Islands, Aragón and Extremadura are the most content whereas in Castilla-La Mancha, Castilla y León and Galicia, suggesting once again that happiness and perception of quality of life can be subjective.

Afterall in a country like Spain – where despite the problems that plague official matters it’s perfectly possible to be happy – life is really what you make of it. 


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For members


How to change the title holder of utility bills in Spain

When you move into a new property in Spain you will need to change the account or contract holder over, so that any future water, electricity or gas bills will be in your name. It's not as easy as you may think; here's how you go about it.

How to change the title holder of utility bills in Spain

Changing the name on your utility bills and the payment details should in theory be relatively straightforward, however you may come up against some common problems which can make the change pretty complicated.

Firstly, you will need to find out which energy companies have been contracted for your property.

You can do this by asking the previous owner themselves, contacting your landlord if you’re renting or asking your estate agent to find out for you.

When it comes to water, this should be provided by your local council or city, so you won’t need to contact the previous occupant for this one. 

How do I change the title over?

When you first move in, remember to note down the numbers on the gas, electricity and water meters, so you can give these to the utility companies and they can record how much you should owe, instead of having to pay for the previous occupant’s consumption as well.

Next, you will then need to contact the energy company supplying your property or water provider and ask for a cambio de titular a nombre del arrendatario o comprador (ask for a change of ownership in the name of the renter or buyer).

The process should be completely free for electricity and gas, but in some cities, you may need to pay a deposit for changing the title of the water bill, which you should get back when you vacate the property. The deposit can be anywhere between €50 and €100.

Contacting the energy company by phone may be the best way to make sure everything is done correctly, but some companies also have online forms where you can request a title change. When it comes to water, most cities will have water offices you can visit or specific e-mail addresses if you can’t contact them over the phone. 

There are a few pieces of information you’ll need to have on hand before you contact the company. These are:

  • The full name of the previous person who had the bills in their name
  • Your NIE / DNI
  • The address of the property
  • The date you moved in
  • The CUPS code (not needed for water)
  • Your padrón certificate (for water only)
  • A copy of the deeds of the property or rental contract
  • Your bank details

With all this information, they should be able to change the name over on the account relatively quickly, so that any future energy bills will go directly to you.

At this time, you can also change your tariff or amount of energy contracted to suit your individual needs.

How do I find the CUPS code?

The CUPS code or Código Unificado del Punto de Suministro (Universal Supply Point Code) is a number that identifies each individual property that receives electricity or gas. The number doesn’t change, so you could ask the previous occupant for this as it will be written on their energy bills.

Alternatively, if this isn’t possible you can contact your energy distributor – these are assigned by area and stay the same. By giving them your name, address and ID number such as NIE, they will be able to give you the CUPS code associated with your property.

What if I want to change to a new energy company?

If you’d prefer not to contract the energy company that the previous owner had, you can also choose to go with a new one. In this case, you will still need all of the same information and numbers as above, but you will contact the energy provider of your choice and the type of tariff you want to pay.

How long will it take to change the name over?

It can take between 1 and 20 days for the bills to be changed over into your name. The previous occupant will receive their final bill and then you will receive the new one from the date you moved in.

What are some of the problems I might come up against?

The most common problem is when the previous occupant is not up to date on paying their bills and has some outstanding debt. In this case, if you try to change the title over into your name, you will also be inheriting the pervious owner’s debt.

In this case, you will have to get the previous occupant to pay their outstanding bill before you can change it over into your name. If you have problems getting them to pay their bill, then you can show proof of the date you moved in by sending in a copy of your deeds or rental contract. This should in theory allow for the transfer of ownership without having to take on the debt, however it can be tricky process, often calling the energy company multiple times and waiting for verification of the proof.

What if the energy services have been cut off?

In the case that the property has been uninhabited for some time, the previous owners may have deactivated or cut off the utilities. If this is the case, then you will need to call the energy providers to activate them again. This will typically involve paying several fees to be able to get them up and running. The amount you pay will depend on the energy distributor and where the property is based in Spain.