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The World’s Happiest Nations, According To U.N. World Happiness Report

Copenhagen, Denmark

A new World Happiness Report (PDF) from the United Nations Sustainable Development Network has attempted to measure the relative happiness of nations around the world.

As it turns out, people aren’t generally that happy, with an average score of 5.1 out of 10 worldwide, according to the report. However, as you would expect, the people of some countries appear to be much happier than others.

In the number one spot we find the people of Denmark with a rating of 7.693, followed by Norway with 7.655, and Switzerland with 7.650. The least happy nations are said to be Togo (2.936), Benin (3.528), and Central African Republic (3.623). Notably, and not surprisingly, this year Syria came in near the bottom of the list with (3.892). Interestingly, the United States came in a number 17, just below its southern neighbour Mexico, and far below its northern neighbor Canada.

The U.N. says the World Happiness Report is offered as a contribution to the crucial debate about the objectives of public policy. According to the report, the term “happiness” is not used lightly in this context, as it “is an aspiration of every human being, and can also be a measure of social progress”. Part of the purpose of the report is to help determine what can be done in terms of public policy if people are not happy. Rather than attempting to measure “transient changes in emotion”, the report has attempted to track overall happiness as an evaluation, as in “Are you happy with your life as a whole?”, rather than “Were you happy yesterday?”.

The report maintains that it offers “rich evidence that the systematic measurement and analysis of happiness can teach us much about the ways to improve the world’s wellbeing and sustainable development”.

Following is a list of the top 22 ranked countries in the World Happiness Report. Do you think attempting to measure the overall happiness of countries in this way is a valuable thing to do in terms of advancing public policy?

  1. Denmark (7.693)
  2. Norway (7.655)
  3. Switzerland (7.650)
  4. Netherlands (7.512)
  5. Sweden (7.480)
  6. Canada (7.477)
  7. Finland (7.389)
  8. Austria (7.369)
  9. Iceland (7.355)
  10. Australia (7.350)
  11. Israel (7.301)
  12. Costa Rica (7.257)
  13. New Zealand (7.221)
  14. United Arab Emirates (7.144)
  15. Panama (7.143)
  16. Mexico (7.088)
  17. United States (7.082)
  18. Ireland (7.076)
  19. Luxembourg (7.054)
  20. Venezuela (7.039)
  21. Belgium (6.967)
  22. United Kingdom (6.883)

Image CC licensed by Tiberio Frascari: Copenhagen, Denmark


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