UN report finds Finland is the happiest country in the world
Good cheer abounds in Naples, Florida. But the United States is lagging as a whole. The U.S. is behind comparably wealthy nations. That's when it comes to its residents’ happiness. The U.S. ranked 18th out of 156 countries surveyed. This was in the World Happiness Report of 2018. The top spot went to Finland. That's according to Maggie Astor. She was reporting for the New York Times.
The World Happiness Report is produced by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network. It draws on data from Gallup International surveys. They were conducted between 2015 to 2017. The surveys asked thousands of people across the globe to place themselves on a ladder with steps. They were numbered from zero to 10. Ten represents the best possible life. This method is known as the Cantril scale.
Finland scored an average of 7.632. Other Nordic nations also ranked high on the list of happiest countries. The other top nine spots included Norway. It included Denmark. It included Iceland. It included Switzerland. It included the Netherlands. It included Canada. It included New Zealand. It included Sweden. And it included Australia.
The report evaluates six variables. The first is GDP. That is the gross domestic product per capita. Other factors were considered. Those included social support. It included healthy life expectancy. It included freedom to make life choices. It included freedom from corruption. And it included generosity.
Most of the top 10 countries are social democracies. They “believe that what makes people happy is solid social support systems, good public services, and even paying a significant amount in taxes for that.”
That's according to Jeffrey D. Sachs. He is director of the Center for Sustainable Development. It is at Columbia University. He is an editor of the report. This political philosophy, he adds, is very different from that of the United States.
The economy in America is strong. But its place in the ranking fell four spots from last year’s report. Sachs explained that “America’s subjective wellbeing is being systematically undermined by three interrelated epidemic diseases. These include obesity, substance abuse (especially opioid addiction) and depression.” This is from an interview with Patrick Collinson of the Guardian.
Burundi placed last in the ranking. It had an average score of 2.905. Second from last was the Central African Republic. Both countries are plagued by political instability and violence. Most of the bottom ten spots are occupied by African nations. But Togo is one of this year’s biggest gainers. It ranked last in 2015. It rose 18 places in the 2018 report.
One of the major themes of this year’s report was the intersection of migration and happiness. Countries were also ranked based on the happiness of their immigrants. Strikingly, the authors of the report found that immigrant happiness scores were almost identical to the scores of the population at large. Finland, for example, also came first in the ranking of immigrant happiness. It was followed by Denmark. Then Norway. And then Iceland.
“The closeness of the two rankings shows that the happiness of immigrants depends predominantly on the quality of life where they now live. This illustrates a general pattern of convergence,” the authors of the report write.
The authors also considered a Gallup index. It measured how accepting countries are of migrants. A higher value for migrant acceptance was linked to greater happiness. That was among both immigrants and native residents “by almost equal amounts,” the report says.
“Happiness can change, and does change, according to the quality of the society in which people live.” That's according to the authors of the report.
“The countries with the happiest immigrants are not the richest countries. Instead, the countries with a more balanced set of social and institutional supports for better lives.”