The 7th World Happiness Report has been released by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network for the United Nations. The World Happiness Report 2019 is a survey of the state of global happiness that ranks 156 countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be. This year’s World Happiness Report focuses on the theme of happiness and the community: how happiness has evolved over the past years, with a focus on the technologies, social norms, conflicts and government policies that affect individuals and communities.
When we talk of the World Happiness Index and its findings we must remember that it was the prime minister of Bhutan, who first proposed a World Happiness Day to the United Nations in 2011. The proposal was accepted as a vital indicator of overall human weal and welfare and March 20 was designated as the World Happiness Day by the UN General Assembly which noted “the relevance of happiness and well-being as universal goals and aspirations in the lives of human beings around the world and the importance of their recognition in public policy objectives.”
The latest happiness report is the seventh to come out since 2012. The first report was released in April 2012 in support of a UN High level meeting on “Wellbeing and Happiness: Defining a New Economic Paradigm”. That report presented the available global data on national happiness and reviewed related evidence from the emerging science of happiness, showing that the quality of people’s lives can be coherently, reliably, and validly assessed by a variety of subjective well-being measures, collectively referred to then and in subsequent reports as “happiness.” Each report includes updated evaluations and a range of commissioned chapters on special topics digging deeper into the science of well-being, and on happiness in specific countries and regions. Every year, there is a central theme. This year’s theme focuses on happiness and community: how happiness has been changing over the past dozen years, and how information technology, governance and social norms influence communities.
The rankings of the world’s happiest countries are based on data collected from surveys in 156 countries, including the Gallup World Poll. The report ranks countries on six key variables that support well-being: income, freedom, trust, healthy life expectancy, social support and generosity. The top 10 countries tend to rank high in all six variables, as well as emotional measures of well-being,
The world is changing all the time. Among the fastest changing aspects are those relating to how people communicate and interact with each other, whether in their schools and workplaces, their neighbourhoods, or in far-flung parts of the world. Last year’s report studied migration as one important source of global change, finding that each country’s life circumstances, including the social context and political institutions were such important sources of happiness that the international ranking of migrant happiness was almost identical to that of the native born.
The report also highlights the percentage of respondents in different countries that report donating to charity or doing volunteer work over the past month. Significantly, in Pakistan, around 32.8 per cent of respondents reported donating to a charity, while 14.2 per cent reported volunteering within the 30-day period.
Finland has been ranked as the happiest country in the world for the second year in succession. Finland is followed by Denmark, Norway, Iceland and the Netherlands. Switzerland came in sixth place, followed by Sweden, New Zealand, Canada (the only country in the Americas) and Austria. Austria nudged Australia out of the top 10 list this year, while New Zealand came in eighth place this year, as last year.
It is noteworthy that no other super powers made it into the top 10 rankings. The United Kingdom came in 15th place, up from 18th place, while Germany came in 17th place, down from 15th. Japan came in 58th place (down from 54th), Russia came in 68th place (down from 59th) and China came in 93rd place (down from 86th).
According to the report, the overall world happiness has fallen over the past few years, which has mostly been fuelled by a sustained drop in India, which came in 140th place this year compared with 133rd place in 2018. The UAE is ranked 21st, Pakistan 67th, Bangladesh 125th and China is placed at 93rd. The inhabitants of South Sudan are the most unhappy people in the world, followed by Central African Republic (155), Afghanistan (154), Tanzania (153) and Rwanda (152). The United States ranks at 19th place for happiness, despite being one of the richest countries in the world. People in South Sudan are the unhappiest with their lives.
Pakistan is among the top 20 gainers on the World Happiness Index, ranked at 67th place, a jump of eight spots from last year’s ranking at 75. Pakistan ranks the highest among all of its neighbours again this year. The top 20 gainers include the Philippines, and countries from Europe, Africa and Latin America. Among the 20 largest losers are countries from the Middle East, Africa, Western Europe, India, Malaysia, Venezuela and Ukraine.