20 Mar 2017

Norway: Shiny, Happy People

International Day of Happiness comes with the annual ranking of the world’s happiness

The happiest people live in Norway, the World Happiness Report by Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), a global initiative launched by the United Nations, has shown. For the fifth time in a row the report was announced on the International Day of Happiness (20th March), which is also celebrated since 2012.

Norway climbed to the first position this year leaping three places and surpassing Denmark, which had “the title” in 2013, 2014 and 2016. Number three in the ranking is Iceland, followed by Switzerland and Finland. In generally, 5 of the first top 10 countries are Nordic (including Sweden on 10th place) a tendency that is kept for all the five years since the report’s been conducted. “Happy countries are the ones that have a healthy balance of prosperity, as conventionally measured, and social capital, meaning a high degree of trust in a society, low inequality and confidence in government,” Jeffrey Sachs, the director of the SDSN and a special advisor to the United Nations Secretary-General, explained. The ranking is based on six criteria – gross domestic product per capita, healthy life expectancy, freedom, generosity, social support and absence of corruption in the government and business. The data was collected in a poll done by Gallup in 155 countries. In each of the countries, more than 3000 people were interviewed. In addition, this year the report focuses on China and Africa in order to provide useful information to governments and policy makers.

Generally, people in Europe tend to feel more content with their life13 from the first 20 countries are European, 2 North American – USA and Canada, 1 South American – Costa Rica, Australia, New Zealand and Israel. There is no country from Asia. The first Asian state to appear is Singapore on the 26th place, one place below Mexico. This is a curious outcome considering the economic growth and high living standard in Singapore and the poverty and high criminality rate in Mexico. According to the authors from SDSN – having enough money is only a small part of the general feeling of happiness. They point out that since the 1960s the income per person has increased three times, but the overall feeling of content in life has decreased a lot in the last decade from an average of 7.5 out of 10, to an average of 6.8 out of 10. Another example is the USA, which dropped one position (from 13th to 14th) despite the rising wages in the country. “The predominant political discourse in the United States is aimed at raising economic growth, with the goal of restoring the ‘American dream’ and the happiness that is supposed to accompany it. But the data show conclusively that this is the wrong approach,” Jeffery Sachs commented. Additionally, he outlined the need of creating “strong social foundations. It’s time to build social trust and healthy lives, not guns or walls.”

Despite the insecurity over Brexit, uncertainty and possible changes in lifestyle, British people are happier this year with the country climbing four spots to the 19th position.

However, despite the experts’ view that economic factors are not helping to achieve satisfaction, they still remain an important issue. And a proof to that is that the bottom of the ranking is taken by the world’s poorest countries, most of them in Africa.