Last updated on April 20, 2014 at 8:28 EDT

Report calls on policy makers to make happiness a key measure and target of development

September 9, 2013

New report ranks the happiest countries, with Canada ranking #6, and
reveals six key factors supporting happiness

TORONTO, Sept. 9, 2013 /CNW/ – As heads of state get ready for the
United Nations General Assembly in two weeks, the second World Happiness Report further strengthens the case that well-being is a critical component of
economic and social development. The report is published by the UN
Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), under the auspices of
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, and was launched at an international
workshop on September 8. The World Happiness Report 2013 will be available at http://unsdsn.org/.

The landmark Report, authored 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 Report is edited by John F. Helliwell,
Professor, University of British Columbia, and Senior Fellow and
Program Co-Director at CIFAR (the Canadian Institute for Advanced
Research); Lord Richard Layard, Director of the Well-Being Programme at
the London School of Economics and Political Science’s Centre for
Economic Performance; and Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director of the
Earth Institute at Columbia University, Director of the SDSN, and
Special Advisor to the UN Secretary General.

“This year’s report provides country-level happiness rankings and
explains changes in national and regional happiness,” said Report
editor John Helliwell. Professor Helliwell worked with other CIFAR
researchers to analyze data from the Gallup World Poll. “The report
reveals important trends and finds six key factors that explain much
about national happiness.”

The first World Happiness Report, released in 2012 ahead of the UN high-level meeting on Happiness and Well-being, drew international attention as a landmark first survey of the
state of global happiness. This new Report goes further.  It delves in
more detail into the analysis of global happiness data, examining
trends over time and breaking down each country’s score into its
component parts, so that citizens and policy makers can understand
their country’s ranking. It also draws connections to other major
initiatives to measure well-being, including those conducted by the
OECD and UNDP’s Human Development Report; and provides guidance for
policy makers on how to effectively incorporate well-being into
decision making.

“There is now a rising worldwide demand that policy be more closely
aligned with what really matters to people as they themselves
characterize their well-being,” said Professor Jeffery Sachs. “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.”

The 2013 report identifies the countries with the highest levels of
happiness in the 2010-2012 surveys, with Canada ranking sixth:

      1. Denmark
      2. Norway
      3. Switzerland
      4. Netherlands
      5. Sweden
      6. Canada

The World Happiness Report 2013 reveals several fascinating trends in the data. On a scale running from
0 to 10, people in over 150 countries reveal a population-weighted
average score of 5.1. Six key variables explain three-quarters of the
variation in annual national average scores over time and among
countries: real GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy, having someone
to count on, perceived freedom to make life choices, freedom from
corruption, and generosity (Table 2.1 of the Report).

The Report also shows significant changes in happiness in countries over
time, with some countries rising and others falling over the past five
years. 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.
For the 130 countries with available data, happiness (as measured by
people’s own evaluations of their lives) significantly improved in 60
countries and worsened in 41 (Figure 2.5 of the Report).

For policy makers, the key issue is what affects happiness. Some studies
show mental health to be the single most important determinant of
whether a person is happy or not. Yet, even in rich countries, less
than a third of mentally ill people are in treatment. Good,
cost-effective treatments exist for depression, anxiety disorders and
psychosis, and the happiness of the world would be greatly increased if
these treatments were more widely available.

The Report also demonstrates the major beneficial side-effects of
happiness. Happy people live longer, are more productive, earn more,
and are also better citizens. The Report suggests, therefore, that
well-being should be developed both for its own sake and for its

Professor John Helliwell will present key findings from the Report in
his Keynote Address at CIFAR’s Symposium on Building Better Lives &
Communities in Toronto on September 19, 2013.  For more information,
visit http://www.cifar.ca/betterlives. For complimentary media passes, contact mmroziewicz@cifar.ca.

A French version of this press release will be available on Monday,
September 9, 2013 at


Established in 1982, CIFAR is an independent research institute
comprising nearly 400 researchers from more than 100 academic
institutions in 16 countries. Our multidisciplinary research networks
bring together internationally respected scholars and scientists to
address questions of global importance. The research of CIFAR’s 11
programs is focused on improving human health, sustaining the Earth,
transforming technology and building strong societies. As a
public-private partnership, CIFAR is supported by the Government of
Canada and the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario, as
well as by individuals, foundations and corporations.

SOURCE Canadian Institute for Advanced Research

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Source: PR Newswire