Recently, the very first World Happiness Report was launched by the United Nations, and Canada faired pretty darn well. After Denmark, Norway, Finland, and the Netherlands (all Northern European countries, of note), Canada ranked a respectable fifth. The least happy countries are all in Sub-Saharan Africa (Togo, Benin, Central African Republic, Sierra Leone). The report speaks to two broad measurements of happiness: the ups and downs of daily emotions, and an individual’s overall evaluation of life.
So what makes a country happy? Some of the criteria is fairly obvious – for example, wealthier countries ranked higher that poorer countries – while some criteria is a bit more surprising. Take, for instance, the role that political freedom and an absence of corruption play – together, these two factors, along with having strong social networks, play a greater role in well-being than income. In fact, while basic living standards were found to be essential for happiness, after the baseline was met happiness was found to vary more with quality of human relationships than income. Additional factors impacting happiness, at an individual level, included mental and physical health, job security, and stable families.
Not only does this information provide us all with some tips about where we might consider relocating, or changes we might consider making in our personal lives, it also offers important information about the society in which we live. As discussed within the report, such information can signify underlying crises or hidden strengths, and can often suggest the need for change. Such findings can also help countries to develop healthy public policies and practices. For example, based on the findings in the report, policy goals should include high employment and high-quality work; a strong community with high levels of trust and respect, which government can influence through inclusive participatory policies; improved physical and mental health; support of family life; and a decent education for all. With the attention paid over the last few years to the financial status of countries around the world, a report that focuses on happiness provides a refreshing lens through which to view true wealth.