The list of the world’s happiest nations is out. The Nordic countries lead the list with Finland coming out on top, while last year’s number one Norway is second, followed by Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden and Australia.
The World Happiness Report 2018 was produced by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network.
The same 10 countries were in the top 10 list last year except that Finland, which was fifth, raced ahead this year pushing Norway to the second spot.
The surprising fact is that the United States is not as happy as one would think. It slid in the happiness rankings by four spots from last year’s 14 to 18 this year. In 2016, it was ranked 13th. This is because the US, although strong economically and per capita income is high, the country’s other vital stats are much more to be desired.
For instance, New York Times reports that the country is lagging in happiness index as its “Life expectancy has declined, suicide rates have risen, the opioid crisis has worsened, inequality has grown and confidence in government has fallen”.
Where does India stand? It has an abysmal track record as far as happiness index is concerned for the last three years. India ranked 133rd in 2018, far behind most of the South Asian nations, slipping 11 spots from 122 of last year. In 2016, India had ranked 118, so it has been a gradual fall.
Interestingly, Pakistan ranked 75 in this year’s report, while China stood at 86, Nepal at 101, Bhutan at 97, Bangladesh at 115 and Sri Lanka was at 116.
The countries that ranked the poorest are Burundi, followed by Central African Republic. Both countries have been consumed by political violence.
The report’s editors included Dr Jeffrey D. Sachs, the director of United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network and a professor at Columbia University; John F. Helliwell, a senior fellow at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research and professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia; and Richard Layard, a director of the Well-Being Program at the London School of Economics’ Center for Economic Performance.
The report is based on Gallup surveys conducted from 2015 to 2017.
Here is a list of the top ten happiest nations in the world per the latest version of the World Happiness Report.
So what is happiness? Happiness is an emotion that has a significant impact on human health, income, state of mind, bonding with fellow citizens, social standing, generosity, life expectancy, inner peace, view of the world, interaction with family members and neighbours, and so on.
Happiness may mean different things to different people. According to the World Happiness Report, happiness springs from the creation of strong social foundations. An average individual can choose to value his or her blessings, relationships, achievements, and possessions. This acceptance may generate significant levels of happiness in him or her. On the other hand, a constant pursuit of material gains might erode the perceived value of what has accrued and may lower the levels of satisfaction and happiness.
The Happiness Report analyses the case of Norway and its happy citizens. This Scandinavian nation has worked to invest its precious oil revenues for the benefit of its future generations. “This emphasis on the future over the present is made easier by high levels of mutual trust, shared purpose, generosity and good governance,” according to report co-editor John Helliwell of the University of British Columbia.
Work-life balance and the quality of time spent with family and community have emerged as significant factors that affect human happiness. The report notes that employment status and type of job are also instrumental in creating different levels of happiness.
Further, autonomy in the workplace and pay levels are important factors that guide human happiness in modern times. The report states that certain rich nations ranked poorly in the happiness index.
For instance, the US ranked poorly compared to other developed countries, as life expectancy in that country has reduced, suicide rates have marked an upward trend, economic and social inequality has risen in recent times, random acts of violence have grown in numbers, and confidence in the government of the day has fallen significantly. Clearly, these symptoms pointed to a general lack of happiness in one of the most developed nations in the world.
The search for explanations as to why one country is happier may not lead to definitive answers. Certain factors such as per capita gross domestic product, social support mechanisms, life expectancy, life choices, generosity, and prevalent corruption levels appear to cast an influence on a nation’s general levels of happiness.
Experts have also noted the fact that most of the top nations in the Happiness Report are social democracies that “believe what makes people happy is solid social support systems, good public services, and even paying a significant amount in taxes for that”. In addition, countries that treat immigrants with decency tend to register higher levels of happiness and satisfaction.
(The top picture is of Helsinki, the capital city of Finland).