World Happiness

World Happiness Day is on March 20th and in anticipation the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network has released the 2016 World Happiness Report. At the release, one of the editors of the report said "...human well-being should be nurtured through a holistic approach that combines economic, social and environmental objectives. Rather than taking a narrow approach focused solely on economic growth, we should promote societies that are prosperous, just, and environmentally sustainable.” We couldn't agree more and so we have created a visual of the state World Happiness based on the WHR.

Aristotle pontificated that happiness depends on ourselves, Kierkegaard preached it lies within, and Tolstoy sermonized "If you want to be happy, be." Clearly neither were fleeing a civil war, dying of starvation, or afflicted with malaria when they penned these thoughts. Although, the great philosophers may be right in a broader sense, some basic 'Maslowian' needs have to be met before humans can aspire to happiness. The report suggests there are six variables that are highly correlated with happiness- Levels of GDP (Purchasing Power Parity), Life Expectancy, Generosity, Social Support, Freedom, and Corruption. The rankings use data that come from the Gallup World Poll. The poll asks for answers to the main life evaluation question asked in the poll. This is called the Cantril ladder: 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.

Denmark is number 1 this year, replacing Switzerland which occupied the spot last year. The usual Scandinavian suspects follow. Most of the top 20 spots are occupied by wealthier European countries with the exception of Israel and Brazil. Israel, which lives under the constant shadow of terrorism is a surprise. Brazil, going through a tough economic phase is also somewhat of a surprise but the Brazilians are known to be a happy people. Most cities went ahead with Carnaval celebrations despite the grim economic outlook, budget cuts, and a toxic political climate. India, at 118 (it was ranked 117 last year) does not fare all that well. There is reason to be hopeful though- GDP and Life Expectancy are certainly on the rise.

The UN (and we) hope this study creates awareness and leaders around the world make happiness and well-being part of their development agenda. The tiny Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan has been way ahead when it comes to policy-making around happiness. In 1972 Bhutan's King introduced the concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH) and its four development pillars at an international conference and the country has closely tracked this metric since.

*Chart renders best on Desktop. We publish a modified version for phone.