Happiest Countries In The World: Explained | NowThis World

Let’s talk about happiness What countries have really achieved it, and why should we care about it? When we look at global rankings, we’re often talking about things like purchasing power, military resources, trade partnerships

But some experts say happiness is actually a better indicator of development and public policy successes than other factors So today, we’re breaking down the annual World Happiness Report, to look at which countries keep topping the list, and why The report – now in its sixth year – is produced by a UN initiative called the Sustainable Development Solutions Network They’ve managed to break down a topic that’s both fundamentally subjective and hard to quantify So, notice anything about the top 10? Yes, all the Nordic countries are in there

They’ve all ranked among the top 10 since the report was first put out And Switzerland – this year’s #5 – has also always hovered near the top So what are the factors that Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Switzerland, the happiest countries in the world? We spoke to an economist, John Helliwell, who has edited the reports since the beginning He said the data were compiled from the World Gallup poll, wherein people were asked to value their lives as a whole, with the best possible life being a 10 and the worst possible being a 0 Economists also analyzed six major factors that they say explains a significant part of it: And though we might expect personal or national wealth to be the biggest determining factor – it’s not

To be a top ranked country, it isn’t just about being really rich or about being socially connected or about having a really good government, it’s a whole mixture In the US for example, the GDP increased by more than a trillion dollars over the three years data was collected for the report, but its happiness ranking dropped 4 spots down to 18th Helliwell says social support, freedom, generosity, and trust in institutions are actually the most significant underlying factors among the happiest countries

The Nordic countries, for example, all have tuition-free college options, provide versions of universal – and in some cases, free – healthcare coverage, and have a variety of other social safety nets Norway provides up to a year of full-salary paid sick leave In Sweden, parents are entitled to almost 16 months of paid parental leave per child That includes those who are unemployed And in Finland, this year’s winning country, the government even provides “baby boxes” to all new parents – filled with things like clothes, spoons, slippers and a thermometer

Or parents can choose a check instead In 2017, it also became the first country in Europe to pilot a Universal Basic Income program, under which 2,000 unemployed citizens received a no-strings-attached monthly stipend from the government I've joked with the other Americans that we are living the American dream here in Finland I just see how well everything works from medical, free healthcare for everyone, transportation that's really efficient and really good schools that are free or very low charge to students and their families And Helliwell says citizens are generally happy to pay the price

Finland, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland all rank among the highest taxed countries in the OECD Researchers also found overlap between countries with big social safety nets and citizens who feel the most free to make life decisions Why? Turns out, those universal education and healthcare systems may act as equalizers for other parts of life Those systems are ones that give high level education possibilities to everybody So regardless of whatever environment you came from, you’ll have the same opportunities for education as everybody else

And of course they’re very good systems as well And the same is true of the health system But it goes beyond taxation and social services By this report’s standards, “social support” also means having somebody to count on when you need them It’s what allows some countries to maintain high happiness ratings even during crises, while others see drastic drops

For example, says Helliwell, when Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal went through financial crises around the same time, their reported well-being declined But in Iceland, where the banking system collapsed, happiness levels stayed high That's because the social capital – or networks of social relationships – is strong In high social capital region, a disaster happens, everybody comes together and works together and works to put things right again The happy countries are the ones that don’t play the blame game

They say, OK, this is a problem, let's see what we can do all of us Of course, not all citizens have the luxury of adopting this mindset In other countries around the world, residents are struggling with corrupt governments, weather-related crises, and poverty And just because a country makes it onto the “Happiest countries” list, doesn’t mean they’re free of problems or criticism For example, the Nordic countries have been among those witnessing a rise of far-right political parties and nationalist anti-immigrant sentiment after the European migrant crisis began in 2015

This includes crackdowns on immigration policies and refugees already living in those countries As discontent over immigration increases, will these countries see an impact on the happiness of not just their citizens, but those who are coming to live there?

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