The Netherlands is the world’s fourth happiest nation
The United Nations has published its World Happiness Report 2013, ranking the Netherlands as the fourth happiest nation on earth.
Denmark was rated as the happiest nation, followed by Norway and Switzerland. In general, the happiest regions were North America and Australia/New Zealand, followed by Western Europe, then Latin America and the Caribbean.
The World Happiness Report was written by leading experts in economics, psychology, survey analysis and national statistics, describes how measurements of well-being can be used effectively to assess the progress of nations.
The first World Happiness Report was published in 2012, based on data from all available years of the Gallup World Poll, mainly 2005 to 2011, and was a landmark first survey of the state of global happiness. This iteration delves a little deeper into the analysis of global happiness data, examining trends and breaking down each country’s score into its component parts.
It has assembled available international happiness data on how people rate both their emotions and their lives as a whole. These measures were divided into three main types: measures of positive emotions (positive affect) including happiness; measures of negative emotions (negative affect); and evaluations of life as a whole. Together, these constitute the primary measures of subjective well-being.
The report states that despite the obvious detrimental happiness impacts of the 2007-08 financial crisis, the world has become a slightly happier and more generous place over the past five years.
It shows significant changes in happiness in countries over time, with some countries rising and others falling over the past five years. For the 130 countries with data available, happiness (as measured by people’s own evaluations of their lives) significantly improved in 60 countries and worsened in 41.
There is some evidence of global convergence of happiness levels, with happiness gains more common in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, and losses more common among the industrial countries, including Europe.
Benefits of happiness
The report also shows the major beneficial side-effects of happiness. Happy people live longer, are more productive, earn more, and are also better citizens. Well-being should be developed both for its own sake and for its side-effects.
According to the report, a major component of this is mental health. Some studies show it to be the single most important determinant of whether a person is happy or not.
Even in rich countries, however, less than a third of mentally ill people are in treatment. The report states that if the good, cost-effective treatments that exist for depression, anxiety disorders and psychosis were more widely available, the happiness of the world would be greatly increased.
Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and co-author of the report, said that there is a rising worldwide demand that government policies be more closely aligned with what really matters to people as they themselves characterise their well-being.
"More and more world leaders are talking about the importance of well-being as a guide for their nations and the world. The World Happiness Report 2013 offers rich evidence that the systematic measurement and analysis of happiness can teach us a lot about ways to improve the world’s well-being and sustainable development."
Top 10 happiest nations
For more information, read the full World Happinesss Report.