Thinking of relocating? Why not move to the happiest country in the world?
The third World Happiness Report has recently been published, and it reveals the countries that, based on a number of criteria, are the happiest in the world. The report is the brainchild of Bhutan which petitioned the UN to adopt Gross National Happiness as a means to “guide public policies”. It uses the following criteria based on people’s self-evaluations:
- Wealth (uses GDP per capita)
- Social support
- Life expectancy
- Freedom of choice (asks the binary question: “Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with your freedom to choose what to do with your life?”)
- Generosity (asks whether people have donated money to charity in the past month)
- Perception of corruption
The number of scientific articles on well-being has increased by “almost two orders of magnitude” over the last two decades, according to the Happiness Report. This is unsurprising given that the well-being of a nation’s people is key to its prosperity. Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron himself commissioned a study by the Office of National Statistics to track Britain’s level of wellbeing, shortly after he came to power.
This year’s Happiness report names Switzerland as the happiest country in the world. It is notable that of the countries that make the top ten, seven are in Northern Europe. The US is at number 15 on the list and the UK at a pretty unimpressive number 21. Holding the table up are Togo and Burundi, which occupy positions 157 and 158 respectively. You can read the full report here or watch the official video promoting the report’s findings in detail (it’s a long but interesting video so you’ll need to be patient; I suggest you head straight to minute 7).
The ten happiest countries in the world today:
- New Zealand
- Income alone does not secure well-being
- True happiness is also based on social capital (Qatar, for example, is at number 28 despite its very high GDP per capita)
- Factors such as trusting a government, generosity and social connections are also key to happiness
- The world’s least happy countries have governments that are tarnished by corruption, ravaged by war and broken by poverty
- The report itself has solid scientific backing. One of its most valuable findings is that keeping the brain happy depends on four key factors: remaining positive, being resilient, social connection and mindfulness; factors that have been corroborated in numerous scientific studies. The Happiness Report also emphasises the importance of cultivating happiness from an early age.
If you’re struggling to find happiness, there’s light at the end of what may seem to be a very dark tunnel. Studies have shown that simple habits such as meditation and practising mindfulness can all lead to positive changes in the areas of the brain responsible for functions such as self-awareness and perspective. The report itself recognises that happiness is a skill that can be enhanced using training.
The Happiness Report is now the third report since its inception, and it looks set to continue. Do you feel it is a valuable addition to the arsenal of studies on wellbeing? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.