Ahead of World Happiness Day on March 20, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) have released their annual report on the world’s happiest countries. Can you guess which country came in first place this year? Here’s a hint: it’s not the United States.
With lofty goals of helping to end world hunger and poverty, and promoting healthy living, the SDSN’s report on the happiest countries in the world began in 2012 in support of a United Nations meeting on happiness and well-being. The SDSN uses a sample of 3,000 people from each of 157 countries around the world, and surveys them on six variables including per capita gross domestic product, healthy life expectancy, the absence of corruption in government and business, generosity, freedom, and social support — or “having someone to count on in times of trouble.”
In 2015’s report, Switzerland took the top spot of World’s Happiest Country, this year, however, Switzerland has been overtaken by Denmark, who scored a ranking of 7.526 out of a possible ten points. Rounding out the top ten happiest countries for 2016’s report are Switzerland (7.509), Iceland (7.501), Norway (7.498), Finland (7.413), Canada (7.404), Netherlands (7.339), New Zealand (7.334), Australia (7.313), and Sweden (7.291).
Coming in at Number 13, with a rank of 7.104, behind Israel (7.267) and Austria (7.119), the United States moved up two spots from last year’s report, but still couldn’t make it into the top ten happiest countries in the world, reports Forbes. This less-than-stellar happiness ranking should come as no surprise to Americans, says Professor Jeffrey Sachs, head of the SDSN, but should also serve as a “strong message” to those who would listen — wealthy doesn’t necessarily mean happy.
“There is a very strong message for my country, the United States, which is very rich, has gotten a lot richer over the last 50 years, but has gotten no happier. For a society that just chases money, we are chasing the wrong things. Our social fabric is deteriorating, social trust is deteriorating, faith in government is deteriorating.”
Sachs also said that it should be on every country’s agenda to improve happiness and well-being amongst its citizens, something that at least five of the countries surveyed have taken to heart. Since the first Happiest Country report was published in 2012, Bhutan, Ecuador, Scotland, United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela have all appointed “Ministers of Happiness” in order to help improve happiness and well-being in their respective countries. However, according to LiveScience, it’s not yet clear if these Ministers have indeed helped to improve happiness among their countries’ citizens, especially considering Venezuela — who appointed their Minister of Happiness in 2013 — dropped from the 20th happiest country to the 23rd between the 2013 and 2015 reports.
The report goes on to specify that countries must look to more than economic growth in order to improve the well-being of their countries and the happiness of their citizens — thus improving the quality of life as a whole — stating that though many countries in recent years have seen economic growth, it has come at a cost of “sharply rising inequality, entrenched social exclusion, and grave damage to the natural environment.” Sachs used Costa Rica — ranked at 14 out of the 157 countries polled — as an example of a country that has found a way to make a healthy, happy society, without being an “economic powerhouse.”
Though seven out of the top ten countries on SDSN’s annual report are located in Western Europe, it’s not much of a surprise that Denmark specifically — a country that’s famous for Lego, Hans-Christian Anderson, and Carlsberg beer — managed to take top honors and be named 2016’s Happiest Country in the world.
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