Back

6 key variables critical for happiness wherever you live

Do you live in one of the top 10 most happy countries? What makes you happy there if you do? Is it something as simple as having someone special to count on when you need them the most or a more complex set of reasons?

Happy family walking in the Swiss Alps
Happiness comes from a balance of six main faactors: a combination of income, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on in times of trouble, generosity, freedom, and trust

When the first World Happiness Report was published in 2007, it was considered a bit of a “that’s nice but what’s it for?” kind of report. Skip forwards ten years, and it’s now considered to be a “proper measure of social progress and the goal of public policy”. One of the World Happiness Report‘s main aims is to encourage policymakers to place more emphasis on happiness, rather than simply economics.

Why is everyone’s happiness of such importance – apart from it obviously being good for people to feel happy rather than sad?

Last year the OECD said one of its goals was “to redefine the growth narrative, to put people’s well-being at the centre of governments’ efforts” – in other words to shine a light on people’s wellbeing because it fundamentally affected the growth and economics of a country.

This year’s World Happiness Report (pdf) measures the following six key variables to explain happiness differences among countries and through time: income, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on in times of trouble, generosity, freedom, and trust (measured by the absence of corruption in business and government).

Woman with arm open wide standing on a rock outcrop overlooking a fjiord
Scandi countries continue to rate highly for happiness due to improving social support and decreasing corruption

This year Norway is in the top position, jumping from 4th place in 2016 to 1st place this year, followed by Denmark, Iceland and Switzerland – though there’s little between the top fours’ scores.

The Top 10 Happiest Countries in the World

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

Other key expat countries’ happiness rankings:

All four top countries rank highly on all the main factors found to support happiness: income, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on in times of trouble, generosity, freedom, and trust.

The reasons for people feeling happiness in a place tend to fall into two groups of criteria:

1. Having someone to count on, generosity, a sense of freedom, and freedom from corruption.
2. GDP per capita and healthy life expectancy

Young man with arms open wide infront of a lake
Within-country differences in happiness are explained by differences in mental health, physical health and personal relationships

Interestingly, the most variation (80%) of happiness across the world occurs within countries. In richer countries the within-country differences are explained by differences in mental health, physical health and personal relationships. According to the report, the biggest single source of misery is mental illness.

Within-country happiness in poor countries is more closely related to income differences; however, mental illness is still a major source of misery.

Not surprisingly, work, or lack of it, is also a major factor affecting happiness. Not having work clearly affects income which can very quickly affect individual or family wellbeing and happiness. The report also found that the quality of work directly affects happiness.

The USA represents a typical picture of reduced happiness in a developed country. In 2007, America ranked 3rd among the OECD countries. Ten years later it is ranked 14th. The reasons, according to the analysis in the report are “declining social support and increased corruption”. Conversely, the Nordic countries that show increasing and constant happiness have improving social support and decreasing corruption.

Do you feel the country where you live provides the Nordic-style of support, or is it suffering from the American problem? Please leave your thoughts below.

If you enjoyed reading this blog post why not become an Angloinfo member, so that you don’t miss out on future articles? You can sign up to be a member here.

Comments

comments