The UN-sponsored World Happiness Report 2013 has just been released — a project that determined a country's level of happiness by using a number of social and economic indicators taken from 2010 to 2012. This map provides a quick overview of the results.
Above image: Max Fisher/The Washington Post.
To get these results, the researchers also considered three measures of happiness (each of which were evaluated by Gallup polls): Life satisfaction (on a scale from 1 to 10), positive emotional state the prior day, and negative emotional state the prior day.
European countries dominated the top five (Denmark, Norwary, Switzerland, Netherlands, and Sweden in that order), with Canada reaching sixth spot. Finland, Austria, Iceland, and Australia rounded out the top 10. The United States finished 17th, one spot below Mexico.
The unhappiest countries were all in sub-Saharan Africa, including Togo, Benin, Central African Republic, Burundi and Rwanda. Syria, a country mired in civil war, languished within the bottom 10.
The happiest countries appear to be those in the developed world, but it's also relatively high in Latin America and on the Arabian Peninsula.
Here are the complete results:
And the regional trends in happiness over time:
From the report:
For policy makers, the key issue is what affects happiness. Some studies show mental health to be the single most important determinant of whether a person is happy or not. Yet, even in rich countries, less than a third of mentally ill people are in treatment. Good, cost-effective treatments exist for depression, anxiety disorders and psychosis, and the happiness of the world would be greatly increased if they were more widely available.
The Report also shows the major beneficial side-effects of happiness. Happy people live longer, are more productive, earn more, and are also better citizens. Well-being should be developed both for its own sake and for its side-effects.
Governments are increasingly measuring well-being with the goal of making well-being an objective of policy. One chapter of the Report, written by Lord Gus O’Donnell, former UK Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service, shows just how this can be done. It shows how different are the policy conclusions when health, transport and education are viewed in this light.
Governments worldwide are now measuring subjective well-being or are currently considering whether to do so. In this Report, the OECD explains the thinking behind their new international standard guidelines for measuring well-being, and the office of the UN Human Development Report explains its own approach to the issue.