Ocean Mist

Issues and trends shaping our environment, health and economy

10 Apr 2017

Who’s happy now?

Posted by Michael Keating

According to the World Happiness Report 2017, it’s the Norwegians, followed closely by the Danes, Icelanders and Swiss. The happiest countries included Finland, the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden. The United States, the world’s richest nation, placed 14th. Highly developed France came in at 31, behind countries such as Guatemala and Panama, while Russia ranked 49, Japan came in at 51 and China at 79.

The happiness ranking, the fourth since 2012, covered 155 countries, and was based on how citizens felt they stood on a scale ranking from the best to the worst possible life. The report’s authors said six key variables determine how happy people feel. They are income (measured as GDP per capita), healthy years of life expectancy, social support (having someone to count on in times of trouble), trust (a perceived absence of corruption in government and business), a feeling of freedom to make life decisions, and generosity (as measured by recent donations).

In richer countries the differences in perceived happiness were due more to mental health, physical health and personal relationships than income inequality. In poorer countries differences in income ranked higher, but mental health still ranked high as an indicator of happiness.

Measurement of happiness is being taken more seriously in recent years. In 2016, the OECD, long focused on economic growth, committed itself “to redefine the growth narrative to put people’s well-being at the center of governments’ efforts.”

The World Happiness Report is produced annually by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, created in 2012 by the UN Secretary-General to encourage practical problem solving for sustainable development.

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