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The happiest people in the world live in Northern Europe, according to a new report published by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

The World Happiness Report 2013 found Denmark to be the happiest country in the world, with its relatively close neighbours: Norway, Switzerland, Netherlands and Sweden making up the top five.

The report found that 75% of differences in happiness could be linked to just 6 contributing factors: GDP per capita; years of healthy life expectancy; having someone to count on; perception of corruption; prevalence of generosity and perceived freedom to make life choices.

Other top-10 ranked countries include: Canada (6th), Finland (7th), Austria (8th), Iceland (9th) and Australia (10th). Bottom of the happiness table was Togo and other African countries making up the lowest five positions with Benin (155th), Central African Republic (154th), Burundi (153rd) and Rwanda (152nd).

The report is the second of its kind to study happiness on such a large scale and was assessed using data from 156 countries from across the world. Happiness was calculated as a mark out of ten based on a person’s overall satisfaction with life and not just how they feel at the time of the survey. The latest report goes even further than the previous 2012 version by comparing the trends over time, allowing a look into which national or global changes affect a population’s level of happiness.

The report found that the regions with the most increased happiness between 2005-2007 and 2010-2012 were Latin America and the Caribbean. North America, Australia and New Zealand (NANZ) saw the most significant drop in happiness.

Despite this drop, the NANZ countries still ranked well overall, with the US (17th), Canada (6th), Australia (10th) and New Zealand (13th).

The report identified the stark diversity between Western European countries where seven countries showed significant increases in happiness scores, while seven others showed significant decreases. Perhaps not surprisingly, four of the countries with declining scores were those badly hit by the Eurozone financial crisis: Portugal, Italy, Spain and Greece. The biggest influencing factor in the lower-life evaluations was a drop in the respondent’s perceived freedom to make life choices, with people limited by a lack of opportunity and cutbacks in services.

The findings also show that the single most important factor for individual happiness is mental health. It concluded that 10% of the world’s population suffers from clinical depression or other crippling anxiety disorders. But it also found that even in advanced countries, only one third of these people were receiving treatment for the illness.

Interesting aspects of the report show us that while money may not make you happy, it certainly helps. Nearly all the top-rated countries are expensive places to live, benefiting from lack of war, social welfare programmes and health care.

It may also be surprising to find that tropical beaches and warm oceans are scarce in the happiest countries, with the exception of Australia the other top ten countries all experience long, cold winters.

Top 30 “Happiest Countries”

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)
23. Oman (6.853)
24. Brazil (6.849)
25. France (6.764)
26. Germany (6.672)
27. Qatar (6.666)
28. Chile (6.587)
29. Argentina (6.562)
30. Singapore (6.546)

Photo Credit: Flickr – Matthew Fang

Copyright © 2014 euronews

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