Reindeer jerky, anyone? Finland is the happiest country in the world, according to the latest World Happiness Report.
It’s followed by Denmark, Norway, Iceland and The Netherlands.
The World Happiness Report was released by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network for the United Nations on March 20, the date that the United Nations has declared to be the International Day of Happiness.
The report ranks countries on six key variables that support well-being: income, freedom, trust, healthy life expectancy, social support and generosity.
“The top five countries all have almost equally high values for the six factors found to support happiness, and four of these countries – Denmark, Switzerland, Norway and now Finland – have been in first place in the six World Happiness Report rankings since the first report,” said report co-editor John Helliwell, a professor emeritus of economics at the University of British Columbia.
“In a division with such excellent teams, changes in the top spot are to be expected,” he said.
Finland also had the happiest immigrants, a special focus of this year’s report.
Differences among the top eight countries are small enough that jostling among the top five is expected every year.
Switzerland came in sixth place, followed by Sweden, New Zealand, Canada (the only country in the Americas) and Austria.
The 2019 list only changed a little, with Austria nudging Australia out of the top 10 list. Australia dropped one spot to 11th place.
Support in difficult times
The 10 happiest countries were also 10 of the top 11 spots in the rankings of immigrant happiness. (Mexico, which came in 24th place in the overall rankings, placed 10th in the immigrant happiness rankings.)
Ranking high in happiness doesn’t protect a country’s people from violence or trauma, as the recent attacks on mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand show. But the response of New Zealand’s people to the attacks does.
“Although immigrants come from countries with very different levels of happiness, their reported life evaluations converge towards those of other residents in their new countries,” said Helliwell.
“Those who move to happier countries gain, while those who move to less happy countries lose.”
The United States’ ranking is dropping
The United States came in 19th place, dropping one spot since last year and a total of five spots since 2017.
“Governments are increasingly using indicators of happiness to inform their policy-making decisions,” said economics professor Jeffrey D. Sachs, director of Columbia University’s Center for Sustainable Development and report co-editor.
“US policymakers should take note. The US happiness ranking is falling, in part because of the ongoing epidemics of obesity, substance abuse and untreated depression.”
Other major powers didn’t crack the top 10 rankings, either. Germany came in 15th place, while the United Kingdom was 19th.
Japan came in 54th place, Russia came in 59th place and China came in 86th.
People in South Sudan are the most unhappy with their lives, according to the survey of 156 countries, followed by Central African Republic (155), Afghanistan (154), Tanzania (153) and Rwanda (152).
It began with Bhutan
The prime minister of the tiny country of Bhutan proposed a World Happiness Day to the United Nations in 2011, which brought international attention to happiness as a metric. Bhutan came in 95th place (up two spots from last year) in this year’s report.
In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly declared March 20 as World Happiness Day, recognizing “the relevance of happiness and well-being as universal goals and aspirations in the lives of human beings around the world and the importance of their recognition in public policy objectives.”
This report is the seventh to come out since 2012. The rankings of the world’s happiest countries came from an analysis of data from surveys in 156 countries, including the Gallup World Poll starting in 2005-2006.