September 10, 2013
Canadian Report Claims The World Is Becoming Happier
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Given the current financial and political climate, it may be hard to believe that overall happiness is on the rise. This is the claim made by Canadian professor John F. Helliwell, whose latest World Happiness Report details the corners of our globe where happiness prevails.
This report, the second of its kind, has been released in the weeks leading up to the United Nations General Assembly as a way to judge a type of well-being which can’t be completely described by economic growth or other hard and fast numbers on a chart. This is the goal of the UN’s happiness project, part of their development mandate, to measure how a nation’s peoples are faring without turning solely to GDP or other economic values.
Overall, claims the report, people are feeling happier than they were last year. Once again Denmark, Norway and Switzerland top the chart as the happiest countries just as they did last year. The Netherlands and Sweden follow closely and together round out this year's top five. The report, published by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) rates each country's happiness on a zero to ten scale, and while the aim of the report is to provide a general overview of happiness, the researchers do take common numbers into consideration.
The least happy countries, for instance, are also the poorest. Togo, West Africa, Rwanda and the Central African Republic scored the lowest on the scale. Likewise, nations currently enduring some of the toughest economic and political changes, Egypt and Greece, saw the steepest decline in happiness over the last year.
United States of America scored 17th in the report, not entirely high but not anywhere near the unhappiest countries, either. Of the 156 countries observed in the report, 60 were listed as feeling happier than last year; 41 countries came in as less happy and 29 had no change over last year.
“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,” reads the report. “For the world as a whole, there was an insignificant 0.5 percent increase.”
Though money doesn’t always equal happiness, this report finds it certainly helps. The UN researchers look at more than simple dollars and cents when piecing together this report, but there’s still a noticeable similarity between how well a country is performing economically and how happy they’re reported to be.
The origins for the World Happiness Report began in 2011 when the General Assembly passed a resolution to measure this somewhat indefinable emotion in their nations. The hope, then, was for these countries to use this level as a guideline when formulating their public policies. When compiling the report, surveyors ask locals how they felt in three different stages. First they ask how they’re feeling presently, then ask how they felt the day before and finally ask how they feel overall. Either negative or positive emotions, depending on the person, are then measured and calculated to build the report.
While economic values certainly influence the happiness of a country, the report says the most important cause of unhappiness is mental illness. The most common form of mental illness causing unhappiness is, unsurprisingly, depression. Though highly influential, the report mentions this is also an area most overlooked by nations when addressing a nation’s unease.