It is a crisp spring day in the Yorkshire Dales. Nature is starting to waken to a new season. The air is fresh and the sun has a hint of heat. It is approaching midday.
Time for a pub lunch after a two hour ramble through one of Britain’s most beautiful landscapes. A pint and a home-made pie. Happiness.
Now where would you rather be – among the heat and dust of Mexico, the noise of Singapore, the chill winds of Iceland? An annual report has listed those countries as happier than the United Kingdom.
The results have been published in The World Happiness Report which ranks 156 countries by their happiness levels. It has been released ahead of UN World Happiness Day on March 20th.
The report comes from the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network which was launched in 2012 by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
So how does the organisation decide such a subjective emotion as happiness and what’s the thinking behind the report which is now its fourth year?
The report was compiled according to such factors as equality, GDP per capita, social support, life expectancy, “perceptions of corruption” and “freedom to make life choices”. It also examined how people evaluated their own lives on a scale of 0 to 10. At the top – Denmark.
The planet’s most contented country pipped Switzerland – last year’s winner, Iceland, Norway and Finland to top spot.
The UK slipped down the order – two places from last year to 23rd.
So what’s the secret of the Danes success. The life expectancy in the country is 80 years which is well above the global average of 71. GDP per capita is 44,916 US dollars per capita. It has free/tax-financed health care and enviable welfare system which has made its wealth gap one of the world’s smallest. It has also been suggested in the past the Danes are genetically happier than people from other countries.
Burundi was rated the least happy country where life expectancy is just 56 followed by Syria, Togo, Afghanistan and Benin.
So Denmark led the way for Europe.
The lowest European country in the rankings was Bulgaria at 129th. Greece and Portugal were ranked 99th and 94th respectively.
The widespread interest in the report reflects growing global interest in using happiness and subjective well-being as primary indicators of the quality of human development, claim the report’s authors.
They want a move away from what Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University calls, “a narrow approach focused solely on economic growth” and has called for the promotion of societies which are prosperous, just and environmentally sustainable.
The report urges governments to use its finding to help steer their policies. “The cause of happiness as the goal of public policy continues to make good progress,” it concludes. “So far five governments (Bhutan, Ecuador, Scotland, UAE and Venezuela) have appointed Ministers of Happiness responsible for coordinating these efforts. This will surely in time contribute to a happier world.”