2017 World Happiness Report


(Cover photo: Tromso, Norway)

Every year, the United Nations issues a World Happiness Report, which ranks 155 countries by their happiness levels.  Who knew?  The star of the show is the Top Ten list … and no, the U.S. is not on that list.  We did, however, rank 14th, which I found quite surprising, as I would have put us at somewhere around 114 out of 155.  A few things are quite interesting about this report.  First is what the report deems to be the things important to a nation’s happiness:  longer healthy years of life, more social support, trust in government, higher GDP per capita, and generosity.  Now you see why the U.S. is not in the Top Ten, right?

iceland

Reykjavik, Iceland

Another interesting thing … at least to this writer who is NOT a huge fan of cold weather … is that the vast majority of the countries have quite cold climates … for example, Iceland ranks #3 on the list!  Iceland, for Pete’s sake!  Perhaps it is a sign that people are actually happier when they do not get out much and therefore do not have to deal with other humans! Here is the complete Top Ten list:

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

An excerpt from the Executive Summary of the report says:

“All of the top four countries rank highly on all the main factors found to support happiness: caring, freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income and good governance.

Happiness has fallen in America

The USA is a story of reduced happiness. In 2007 the USA ranked 3rd among the OECD countries; in 2016 it came 19th. The reasons are declining social support and increased corruption (chapter 7) and it is these same factors that explain why the Nordic countries do so much better.”

Chapter 7, referenced above, is titled, “Restoring American Happiness” written by Jeffrey D. Sachs. Here is an excerpt that I found to be particularly relevant:

“The central paradox of the modern American economy, as identified by Richard Easterlin (1964, 2016), is this: income per person has increased roughly three times since 1960, but measured happiness has not risen. The situation has gotten worse in recent years: per capita GDP is still rising, but happiness is now actually falling.

The predominant political discourse in the United States is aimed at raising economic growth, with the goal of restoring the American Dream and the happiness that is supposed to accompany it. But the data show conclusively that this is the wrong approach. The United States can and should raise happiness by addressing America’s multi-faceted social crisis— rising inequality, corruption, isolation, and distrust—rather than focusing exclusively or even mainly on economic growth, especially since the concrete proposals along these lines would exacerbate rather than ameliorate the deepening social crisis. America’s crisis is, in short, a social crisis, not an economic crisis.”

Jeffrey Sachs, the author of Chapter 7, is one of the world’s best-known economists, who has advised successive UN secretary generals. In a stinging critique of policymakers in Washington DC, Sachs criticizes “naive attempts to raise the economic growth rate”. He says this prescription is “doubly wrong-headed” because “most of the pseudo-elixirs for growth – especially the Republican party’s beloved nostrum of endless tax cuts and voodoo economics – will only exacerbate Americans’ social inequalities and feed the distrust that is already tearing society apart”. The general consensus is that happiness in the US is declining and is expected to continue on a downward path, with Donald Trump’s policies forecast to deepen the country’s social crisis.

Other surprises …. at least to me, were that many European nations ranked even lower than the U.S., with Germany in 17th place, the UK in 19th, and France in 32nd. Not at all surprising was that The world’s “unhappiest” countries are all in the Middle East and Africa: war-stricken Yemen and Syria feature in the bottom 10, with Tanzania, Burundi and Central African Republic making up the final three.

I found the report very interesting and you might also.  Here is a link to the full report, and from there you can, if you wish, download a pdf file for the entire report or for individual sections. I leave you to draw your own conclusions, based on Mr. Sachs’ analysis, of the current administration’s agenda and how it is likely to affect our ranking a year from now when the 2018 report is issued.

netherlands

Amsterdam, Netherlands

switzerland

Zurich, Switzerland

 

 

29 thoughts on “2017 World Happiness Report

  1. Countrywomen leaves the men out of it, and countrypeople or countryhumans just don’t cut it. 1) Most importantly, we are a “cold country” for almost 8 months a year in the south, and 11 months of the year in the North, where barely anyone lives.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. In My Opinion
    Hi jill,
    Like you, I am surprised where Canada is placed (7th). but in both positive and negative ways. Like America, the GDP is one of the most important areas according to our government. For the past number of years we had a conservative Conservative Prime Minister. He was in love with himself, and didn’t give a damn what the rest of the country thought of him. (And, when new groups of immigrant were arriving in Canada, or receiving their Citizenship papers, either he himself or one of his henchmen openly told these new voters that “being Canadian meant voting Conservative, because the Conservatives were the ones who made it possible for them to come to Canada,” and he learned this from the previous conservative Liberal administration who only suggested “they vote Liberal.if they wanted their countrymen [sick] to keep being allowed to apply to come to Canada.” (sick = what’s a good word to join women with countrymen? Countrywomen leaves the men out of it, and countrypeople or countryhumans just don’t cut it. I’ll give a genuine antique Stan Lee No Prize to anyone who comes up with a good non-gender-specific replacement for the word “countrymen.”)
    There are enough immigrants coming to Canada right now that if the new conservative Liberal party keeps their position, probably they’ll be doing exactly what the taught the conservative Conservatives to do.And that makes the majority of Canadians unhappy, not because so many immigrants are coming to Canada (including coming from America these Trumpeting days), but because our votes are not supposed to be compromised in any way. A free vote is a free vote, after all. That scenario alone should put us around 14th, where America is right now, but there are other factors that keep us happy.1) Most importantly, we are a “cold country” for almost 8 months a year in the south, and 11 months of the year in the North, where barely anyone lives.
    Another factor for the unhappy side is, and I apologize in advance for saying this, we have America as our mostly southern land border, and we are influenced by so much American culture, including how we treat our minorities. Our leaders kowtow to your leaders, not wanting to offend our Big Brother to the South, such as selling you our water and hydroelectricity for half the price we pay for it. We got screwed over by the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and that pisses the average Canadian off, but our leaders “know better what Canada needs more than its people.” So far it sounds like we should definitely be in 15th place, right there behind our American cousins. So why are we 7 places ahead of you? 2. The scenery (even though that is slowly being eaten away by expanding cities and towns). Beautiful mountains (oh, you have those too?), arboreal forests that have existed for eons (but are about to disappear to forestry product companies which our government is selling at cut-rate prices). 3. Our many fresh water beaches (when we are allowed to swim in them) and 4. our own monsters: the Sasquatch, Loup Garou (werewolves for the non-French speakers in the audience), Manipogo, and Ogopogo both fresh water sea serpents occasionally seen and sometimes even captured on “film,” and 5. Our plentiful natural resources (tar sands oil pits, baby seals that are yearly bludgeoned to death within days of being born, and our diamond mines (just recently discovered in the northern tundra). 6) Finally, our biggest and best reason for being happy, Cuban immigrants who teach us to be happy no matter how bad life seems. Party, party, party is their motto, and I’m thinking, now that Fidel is dead, we all emigrate to Cuba where secondary school is free, the people party every night, and best of all, there aren’t any Americans there to teach us how to do just about everything. Yeah, Canada.

    rawgod

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  3. Dear Jill,

    Six out of the top 10 are in cold regions. New Zealand and Iceland are on my bucket visit in the future. Maybe I can find a male partner. But woe, my favorite country Italy is not on the list.

    Still, after yesterday, my happiness measure is way up there. There is that factor of hope.

    Hugs, Gronda

    Liked by 1 person

    • You make me smile, Gronda! I hope you get to New Zealand and Iceland! Male partners have their advantages, for sure, but at the moment I would say they are a lot of trouble too! 🙂 And yes, I’m with you … I now see a light at the end of this long, dark tunnel! Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the reblog!!! I don’t know when the data was gathered, but the report, or at least chapter 7, was definitely written after Trump’s inauguration, because Sachs specifically mentions Trump’s policies as having an adversarial effect. The data may have been gathered at an earlier point, however, because I was surprised that we didn’t rank much lower than 14th. Thanks again!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s interesting that a number of the highest ranking countries are “democratic socialist” countries. The countries that have embraced capitalism with both hands seem to falling short on the “happiness” scale. I do wonder if it is not our fixation with money and profit as the key to success and a happy life, rather than caring for one another. And, I agree, it is interesting that the coldest countries seem to be doing quite well. They may not be so crowded! It’s easier to care for others if there aren’t so damned many of them!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Yeah Netherlands 6th 😉 😉 😉 I also have read somewhere else (some time ago) that Dutch children are amongst the happiest in the world. I have always said that this is a good country to raise your kids in! 🙂 As for Germany and Austria not being in the top ten: Germans love to complain and Austrians love to grumble 😉 So I guess it would be really hard to make them truly happy. 🙂 (I know this is cliché! But I am Austrian and was partly raised in Germany, so I am allowed to say it!!) – Happy Tuesday! The sun is shining on the Netherlands today (really, not metaphorically!) 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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