The World Happiness Report has been released this month crowning the world’s happiest country, and boy has it caused some rivalry. Launched in 2012 by the United Nations, the report gives 158 countries around the world a definitive placing based on a number of factors, such as earnings, living standards and perceived freedom.
Think your home country should top this list? The winner might surprise you.
No, it’s not the United States of America, home of the brave. It’s not Australia, great southern land of the tanned surfer and carefree attitude. And the United Kingdom didn’t even make it to the top five (no, the arrival of Princess Charlotte of Cambridge didn’t factor into their happiness rank).
Coming in at number one is Switzerland. The European country boasts an average life expectancy of 82.8 (precise, huh!) and most citizens are multilingual, speaking German, French and English. Cold climate countries took out the top five spots, with Iceland ranking second on the list, followed by Denmark, Norway and Canada.
“This report gives evidence on how to achieve societal well-being,” says Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute, Columbia University. “It’s not by money alone, but also by fairness, honesty, trust, and good health.”
Other countries that made the World Happiness Report 2015 top ten include Finland, Netherlands, Sweden, New Zealand and Australia. The United States claimed the fifteenth spot, while Britain crept in at number 21.
On the other end of the scale were war-torn countries and developing nations, most of which were sub-Saharan African countries. Afghanistan and Syria joined the likes of Rwanda, Chad and Ivory Coast at the tail end of the list.
Researchers say they hope the report will be used for good. “As the science of happiness advances, we are getting to the heart of what factors define quality of life for citizens,” says one of the report editors Professor John F. Helliwell of the Univeristy of British Colombia. “We are encouraged that more and more governments around the world are listening and responding with policies that put wellbeing first.”
Three ways to boost your happiness (without moving country)
1. Say thank you
Research in The Journal of Positive Psychology reveals that money and material goods won’t boost our long-term sustainable happiness, but gratitude will. Study leads from Baylor University looked into the relationship between materialism and life satisfaction.
Their conclusion that your pay packet won’t increase happiness wasn’t groundbreaking, but their findings about the impact of gratitude may well be.
Researchers found that feelings of gratitude act as a buffer from the negative effects of materialism. The take home message? At the end of each day practice reflecting on the good that happened that day, whether that be a new purchase or a great meal with friends – cultivating positive thoughts is key.
2. Get out there
Education and social-economic status are often linked to a better level of wellbeing, but research by the University of Warwick suggests that’s not the case. The study, which interviewed over 17,000 participants, found that getting a good education had no correlation to leading a happier life. So on this basis, focus on building life experiences to better your odds for a happier, more balanced life.
3. Have kids
Yep, that’s right. A study by the London School of Economics has found that having two children increases a person’s chance of happiness. What’s more, those who have children later in life have a particularly positive response to building a family. Interestingly, having a third child saw no boost in happiness.
Images via Sprout