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Switzerland is the happiest country in the world

30 April, 2015 08:23  EasyExpat EasyExpat

Podium with golden trophy © 3d brained - Fotolia.comWithout too much surprise for those used to read similar ranking reports, most of the countries topping the happiness ranking in 2015 are from the North of Europe. Although Switzerland is number one, it is closely followed by Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Netherlands and Sweden. Only Canada (5th), New Zealand (9th) and Australia (10th) manage to get into the 10 happiest countries according to the World Happiness Report 2015.

  1. Switzerland
  2. Iceland
  3. Denmark
  4. Norway
  5. Canada
  6. Finland
  7. Netherlands
  8. Sweden
  9. New Zealand
  10. Australia

In total, 158 countries are listed in the study. The United States are 15th, Belgium is 19th, United  Kingdom is 21st, Germany is 26th and France is 29th. We can also cite Spain (36), Japan (46), Italy (50) and Greece (102), the biggest hapiness looser in the 2015 report.

On the other side, we find mostly African countries (with the exception of Afghanistan) at the bottom of the list.

  1. Guinea
  2. Ivory Coast
  3. Burkina Faso
  4. Afghanistan
  5. Rwanda
  6. Benin
  7. Syria
  8. Burundi
  9. Togo

The economic crisis triggered important changes

Comparing the country rankings in World Happiness Report 2015 with those in World Happiness Report 2013, there is a combination of consistency and change. Nine of the top 10 countries in 2015 were also in the top 10 of 2013. But the ranking has changed, with Switzerland now at the top, followed closely by Iceland, Denmark and Norway(but the differences between them are not statistically significant).

Analysis of changes in life evaluations from 2005-2007 to 2012-2014 shows big international differences in how the global recession affected national happiness: the economic crisis triggered drops in happiness greater than could be explained by falling incomes and higher unemployment. The top three gainers were Nicaragua, Zimbabwe and Ecuador, with increases ranging from 0.97 to 1.12. The biggest drop in average life evaluations was in Greece, which lost almost 1.5 points, followed by Egypt with – 1.13 and Italy with -0.76 points.

On Greece, the report says:

"The case was made that there is an interaction between social capital and economic or other crises. If the fabric is sufficiently strong, then the crisis may even lead to higher subjective well-being, in part by giving people a chance to work together towards good purpose, and to realize and appreciate the strength of their mutual social support; and in part because the crisis will be better handled and the underlying social capital improved in use. On the other hand, should social institutions prove inadequate in the face of the challenges posed by the crisis, they may crumble further under the resulting pressures, making the happiness losses even greater, since social and institutional trust are themselves important supports for subjective well-being. The example of Greece was used as evidence for the latter possibility, with trust data from the European Social Survey used to document the erosion of the perceived quality of the Greek climate of trust."

The authors highlight the importance of the social factor.

"Well-being depends heavily on the pro-social behavior of members of the society. Pro-sociality involves individuals making decisions for the common good that may conflict with short-run egoistic incentives. [...] High social capital [meaning generalized trust, good governance, and mutual support by individuals within the society] directly and indirectly raises well-being, by promoting social support systems, generosity and voluntarism, honesty in public administration, and by reducing the costs of doing business. The pressing policy question is therefore how societies with low social capital, riven by distrust and dishonesty, can invest in social capital."

The measure of hapiness as an increasingly valuable indicator

This is the third publication of the World Happiness Report (2012, 2013 and now 2015). The report combines analysis of levels and trends of happiness data including life evaluations, public/private surveys (the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System of the National Institutes for Health Gallup/Healthways Daily Poll) and non-official surveys.

The main rankings use data that come from the Gallup World Poll and based on answers to the main life evaluation question asked in the poll: it asks respondents to think of a ladder, with the best possible life for them being a 10, and the worst possible life being a 0. They are then asked to rate their own current lives on that 0 to 10 scale. Although they have no impact on the total score, 6 factors are used to explain the ranking: levels of GDP, life expectancy, social support, generosity, freedom, and corruption – contribute to making life evaluations higher in each country than they are in Dystopia(imagined unpleasant place).

UN member states aim at adopting a Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) indicator in September 2015 to help guide the world community towards a more inclusive and sustainable pattern of global development. Sustainable development is a normative concept, calling for all societies to balance economic, social, and environmental objectives. A rapidly increasing number of national and local governments are already using happiness data and concepts of happiness and well-being are very likely to help guide progress towards sustainable development.

The Sustainable Development Solutions Network, in its recommendations on the selection of SDG indicators, has strongly recommended the inclusion of indicators of Subjective Well-being and Positive Mood Affect to help guide and measure the progress towards the SDGs.

This report is published by The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and edited by John F. Helliwell (University of British Columbia), Richard Layard (London School of Economics), and Jeffrey Sachs.


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