According to the World Happiness Report of 2018 released by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network for the United Nations, there have been some changes since 2017. In 2017 the happiest country in the world was Norway, knocking down the three-time winner Denmark for the first time since the report was created.
The Top Ten
This year Finland has taken gold, with the top 10 countries coming in as follows:
- New Zealand
How Are the Rankings Compiled?
The World Happiness Report ranks 156 countries by their happiness levels, and 117 countries by the happiness of immigrants. One of the most interesting results is how close the happiness levels expressed are between locally born and immigrant people in the top countries.
There is more to happiness than just money and the report findings are based on several factors. These include GDP, life expectancy, generosity, social support, freedom, and corruption. Poll respondents are asked to rank their happiness level for each of these on a scale of 1 -10 in relation to Dystopia. Dystopia being a fabricated country whose imaginary citizens are the least happy in the world. This gives respondents a benchmark from which to judge their own happiness.
Interestingly, even countries with low GDP’s find balance in the other criteria, like social support and freedom, with only two of the top ten happiest countries also making the list of the top ten richest countries based on GDP.
Another thing that’s just as interesting to note is that, six of the ten happiest countries also fall within the top 10 gambling countries, with pokies in Australia and New Zealand practically being a national pastime!
A Look at the Countries Themselves
Finnish people sited low levels of corruption, high life expectancy, probably due to the easily accessible health care, and good work life balance as their happiness indicators. It isn’t easy to understand how a country that spends months in the dark, and has one of the highest suicide rates made it to the top of the list, but clearly they are a very happy nation otherwise.
Although money was not top of the list, being the sixth wealthiest country certainly is not a negative factor. It creates security, which means less worrying which eliminates a lot of stress. Later in life every resident is guaranteed a pension, which again means that there is no need to worry about what will happen when they are no longer able to contribute economically.
Danish people boast close-knit communities, which has proven to be high on the happiness poll in every country. That feeling of togetherness creates happiness, stability and a feeling of being cherished. The Danish welfare model also makes a massive contribution to the countries happiness. Although all residents pay high taxes, they receive excellent benefits from their government.
This small, freezing place has held its happiness index firmly in its fist, even after their economic collapse in 2008, where some citizens lost everything. Yet, as much as 25% of Icelanders felt happier. Why? A small community in crisis reaches out to one another, so those who were negatively affected were never isolated or without help. The Icelandic happiness is a collective affair, with everybody looking out for one another.
The Swiss note their longer life expectancy, and that they are a beautiful people, as one of their main reasons for happiness. Swiss people live longer, and are healthier. The Swedish Government has always put its citizens first, refusing to get the country involved in political wars and therefor saving billions in military investment.
The Dutch perceive a high level of democracy and political stability, which allows them to focus on what is important to them. Which in recent polls is everything except politics.
Canadians are well known for being exceptionally friendly and polite. This actually stems from the fact that positive social ties rank highest on their list. Second and third are active lifestyles, even in the cold, and mental health stability.
- New Zealand
Interestingly in the New Zealand poll, immigrants played a big part. Both New Zealanders and expats said that they felt that there was equality among all in residence. That New Zealanders were accepting of immigrants and that they enjoy the diversity it brings to the country also contributed to the feeling of well-being.
Aside from its beauty, Swedish people who participated in the poll cited the sense of community as a big contributing factor; as well as a shorter work week that allows them to enjoy the natural beauty, which by default encourages greener, healthy living.
In Australia happiness was directly equated to happiness in the workplace. Happy workers work harder, which in turn creates employment stability and therefore economic freedom. They also felt that all citizens are treated with fairness and respect.
It’s clear that what equates to happiness is different in every country, but all have similar threads that run through the polls. Stability, health and life-work balance all rank highly, but so does freedom. Like the freedom to place a bet every now and then!