The Sustainable Development Solutions Network has released its latest World Happiness Report, in celebration of World Happiness Day today. And a bit of feel-good news for our country: Canada ranks seventh overall.
The World Happiness Report was first published in April 2012 in support of the UN High Level Meeting. According to the organization, happiness is considered a "proper measure of social progress and the goal for public policy."
The top 10 OECD countries remain the same this year versus last, although there has been a bit of shuffling among the happiest places. Norway now ranks number-one, followed by Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland. The differences among these four countries are not statistically significant, the Report suggests, which means they are all pretty well tops on the happiness scale. In 2016, the order of ranking was Denmark, followed by Switzerland, Morocco, Norway, and Finland.
There is a four-point gap between the top and bottom 10 countries, and the majority (three-quarters) of the differences can be attributed to six key variables: GDP per capita, a healthy life expectancy, social support (i.e. having someone to count in in times of trouble), trust (by the perceived absence of corruption in government and business), perceived freedom to make life decisions, ad generosity, including donations. All 10 of the top countries, including Canada, ranked high on all of these measures.
Finland came in fifth, followed by Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Sweden. While regions like Luxembourg, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, and Qatar appeared to rank quite high in GPD per capita, they ranked much lower than other countries in other areas, thus ranking them further down the list. While Canadians are still presumably a happy people, the country did drop one spot, as we ranked sixth in 2016.
Ranking last (106th) on the list was Sierra Leone. Other highlights including the United States, which ranked 14th; the United Kingdom at 19th; Taiwan at 33rd; Japan at 51st; South Korea at 56th; Hong Kong at 71st; and China at 79th. The full report can be viewed here.
Happiness appears to be inconsistent in the U.S., which ranked third in 2007, then dropped to 13th in 2016, only to drop again slightly this year to 14th. The Report suggests the reasons to be declining social support and increased perception of corruption.
Norway showed an impressive rise, jumping from fourth place in 2016 to first in 2017, despite weaker oil prices. Big jumps were seen by countries like Nicaragua, which rose from position 48 to 43, and Greece, which jumped from position 99 to 87.
Interestingly, the variances within the richer countries is mainly attributed to things like mental illness, not income differences, which tend to matter more in poorer countries. Even there, however, mental illness is an issue. Unemployment is also a major factor impacting happiness.