The happiest country in the world, for five years straight, is Finland. That’s according to The Global Happiness Report. So, what is the World Happiness Report? It is a publication of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network.
Not Just About Money
Ten years ago, at a UN Meeting called Wellbeing and Happiness: Defining a New Economic Paradigm, the UN General Assembly invited member countries to use the level of happiness of their citizens to guide public policy instead of GDP (Gross Domestic Product).
Gross Domestic Product measures the value of goods and services produced in a country at any time. GDP is not always an accurate measure of the quality of life of a nation’s citizens. We could have countries high in GDP, but the wealth is concentrated to just the top 1% while the other 99% struggle to make ends meet.
If we are going to measure the well-being of a country, then we need to go beyond using money as the sole matrix. The United Nations recognized this.Happiness Around The World – Buying Happiness Around the WorldDuring my travels over the last few years and to prepare for my project, ‘Buying Happiness Around the World’, I have…www.buyinghappinessaroundtheworld.com
What Makes For A Happy Country?
How does the report measure level of happiness of a country? The first is through the World Gallup Poll. In the report, there are Gallup interviews, by phone or face-to-face (for countries that lack phone services), 1000 citizens from 160 countries.
Each interview comprises 100 questions covering food and shelter, law and order, infrastructure, access to basic needs, and work.
The findings of the interviews are then correlated with factors guiding the overall World Health Organization’s Quality of Life matrix (Quality of life (QOL) is defined as “an individual’s perception of their position in life in the context of the culture and value systems in which they live and concerning their goals, expectations, standards, and concerns.”)
Money is Not Irrelevant
The Quality of Life matrix includes GDP, life expectancy, access to health care, good jobs, low levels of corruption, social support, and fundamental personal freedoms!
Looking at the rankings, it is no surprise that the top twenty happiest countries also happen to be wealthy nations, with some of the highest GDPs in the world. It is challenging to be happy when you’re unsure of your next meal. But it also does not mean that you are unhappy if you’re poor.
Sharing Makes You Happy
It is also noteworthy that all five of the Nordic nations are within the top ten happiest countries in the world. These are nations where taxes are some of the highest in the world.
At 56.95%, Finland has the second-highest personal tax rate globally. Being taxed heavily does not appear to cause unhappiness.
I recall talking to a group of Danish friends (Denmark ranks second in the World Happiness Index) who echoed a sentiment widely shared amongst their citizens, “we believe we should help those at the bottom.”
What Makes You Happy?
Reading the World Happiness Report made me contemplate what makes people happy?
I know the usual chorus, “money can’t buy happiness.” Can we still be happy if our basic needs are not met — food, shelter, and work?
Would you still be happy if you had community and support but struggled to make ends meet? Would it matter to you if you had all the money in the world, but everyone else around you lived in poverty?
What makes you happiest?