UN Happiness Index

The world is now in the midst of a major policy debate about the objectives of public policy. What should be the world’s Sustainable Development Goals for the period 2015-2030?
The United Nations invited member countries to measure the happiness of their people and to use this to help guide their public policies. This was followed in April 2012 by the first UN high-level meeting on happiness and well-being, chaired by the Prime Minister of Bhutan. At the same time the first World Happiness Report was published, followed some months later by the OECD Guidelines setting an international standard for the measurement of well-being.

The word “happiness” is not used lightly. Happiness is an aspiration of every human being, and can also be a measure of social progress. America’s founding fathers declared the inalienable right to pursue happiness. Yet are Americans, or citizens of other countries, happy? If they are not, what if anything can be done about it? The key to proper measurement must begin with the meaning of the word “happiness.”
The problem, of course, is that happiness is used in at least two ways — the first as an emotion (“Were you happy yesterday?”) and the second as an evaluation (“Are you happy with your life as a whole?”). If individuals were to routinely mix up their responses to these very different questions, then measures of happiness might tell us very little. Changes in reported happiness used to track social progress would perhaps reflect little more than transient changes in emotion. Happy people are not just more sociable; they also experience higher-quality social relationships. Or impoverished persons who express happiness in terms of emotion might inadvertently diminish society’s will to fight poverty.
Fortunately, respondents to happiness surveys do not tend to make such confusing mistakes. As we showed in last year’s World Happiness Report and again in this year’s report, respondents to surveys clearly recognize the difference between happiness as an emotion and happiness in the sense of life satisfaction. The responses of individuals to these different questions are highly distinct. A very poor person might report himself to be happy emotionally at a specific time, while also reporting a much lower sense of happiness with life as a whole; and indeed, people living in extreme poverty do express low levels of happiness with life as a whole. Such answers should spur our societies to work harder to end extreme poverty.
As with last year’s report, we have again assembled the available international happiness data on how people rate both their emotions and their lives as a whole. We divide the available measures into three main types: measures of positive emotions (positive affect) including happiness, usually asked about the day preceding the survey; measures of negative emotions (negative affect) again asked about the preceding day; and evaluations of life as a whole. Together, these three types of reports constitute the primary measures of subjective well-being.
The three main life evaluations are the Cantril ladder of life, life satisfaction, and happiness with life as a whole. Happiness thus appears twice, once as an emotional report, and once as part of a life evaluation, giving us considerable evidence about the nature and causes of happiness in both its major senses.

156. Togo (2.936)
155. Benin (3.528)
154. Central African Republic (3.623)
153. Burundi (3.706)
152. Rwanda (3.715)
151. Tanzania (3.770)
150. Guinea (3.847)
149. Comoros (3.851)
148. Syria (3.892)
147. Senegal (3.959)
146. Madagascar (3.966)
145. Botswana (3.970)
144. Bulgaria (3.981)
143. Afghanistan (4.040)
142. Yemen (4.054)
141. Chad (4.056)
140. Cambodia (4.067)
139. Malawi (4.113)
138. Gabon (4.114)
137. Sri Lanka (4.151)
136. Niger (4.152)
135. Nepal (4.156)
134. Georgia (4.187)
133. Liberia (4.196)
132. Mali (4.247)
131. Burkina Faso (4.259)
130. Egypt (4.273)
129. Congo (Brazzaville) (4.297)
128. Armenia (4.316)
127. Sierra Leone (4.318)
126. Haiti (4.341)
125. Tajikistan (4.380)
124. Sudan (4.401)
123. Kenya (4.403)
122. Cameroon (4.420)
121. Myanmar (4.439)
120. Uganda (4.443)
119. Ethiopia (4.561)
118. Macedonia (4.574)
117. Congo (Kinshasa) (4.578)
116. Azerbaijan (4.604)
115. Iran (4.643)
114. Djibouti (4.690)
113. Palestinian Territories (4.700)
112. Mauritania (4.758)
111. India (4.772)
110. Hungary (4.775)
109. Laos (4.787)
108. Bangladesh (4.804)
107. Bosnia and Herzegovina (4.813)
106. Serbia (4.813)
105. Iraq (4.817)
104. Tunisia (4.826)
103. Zimbabwe (4.827)
102. Mongolia (4.834)
100. Swaziland (4.867)
99. Morocco (4.885)
98. Lesotho (4.898)
97. Lebanon (4.931)
96. South Africa (4.963)
94. Mozambique (4.971)
93. China (4.978)
92. Philippines (4.985)
91. Zambia (5.006)
90. Romania (5.033)
89. Kyrgyzstan (5.042)
88. Latvia (5.046)
87. Ukraine (5.057)
86. Ghana (5.091)
85. Portugal (5.101)
84. Honduras (5.142)
83. Kosovo (5.222)
82. Nigeria (5.248)
81. Pakistan (5.292)
80. Montenegro (5.299)
79. Bahrain (5.312)
78. Libya (5.340)
77. Turkey (5.345)
76. Indonesia (5.348)
75. Jamaica (5.374)
74. Jordan (5.414)
73. Algeria (5.422)
72. Estonia (5.426)
71. Lithuania (5.426)
70. Greece (5.435)
69. North Cyprus (5.463)
68. Russia (5.464)
67. Mauritius (5.477)
66. Belarus (5.504)
65. Nicaragua (5.507)
64. Hong Kong (5.523)
63. Vietnam (5.533)
62. Albania (5.550)
61. Angola (5.589)
60. Uzbekistan (5.623)
59. Turkmenistan (5.628)
58. Croatia (5.661)
57. Kazakhstan (5.671)
56. Malaysia (5.760)
55. Peru (5.776)
54. Paraguay (5.779)
53. Moldova (5.791)
52. El Salvador (5.809)
51. Poland (5.822)
50. Bolivia (5.857)
49. Ecuador (5.865)
48. Malta (5.964)
47. Guatemala (5.965)
46. Slovakia (5.969)
45. Italy (6.021)
44. Slovenia (6.060)
43. Japan (6.064)
42. Taiwan (6.221)
41. South Korea (6.267)
40. Suriname (6.269)
39. Czech Republic (6.290)
38. Spain (6.322)
37. Uruguay (6.355)
36. Thailand (6.371)
35. Colombia (6.416)
34. Cyprus (6.466)
33. Saudi Arabia (6.480)
32. Kuwait (6.515)
31. Trinidad and Tobago (6.519)
30. Singapore (6.546)
29. Argentina (6.562)
28. Chile (6.587)
27. Qatar (6.666)
26. Germany (6.672)
25. France (6.764)
24. Brazil (6.849)
23. Oman (6.853)
22. United Kingdom (6.883)
21. Belgium (6.967)
20. Venezuela (7.039)
19. Luxembourg (7.054)
18. Ireland (7.076)
17. United States (7.082)
16. Mexico (7.088)
15. Panama (7.143)
14. United Arab Emirates (7.144)
13. New Zealand (7.221)
12. Costa Rica (7.257)
11. Israel (7.301)
10. Australia (7.350)
9. Iceland (7.355)
8. Austria (7.369)
7. Finland (7.389)
6. Canada (7.477)
5. Sweden (7.480)
4. Netherlands (7.512)
3. Switzerland (7.650)
2. Norway (7.655)
1. Denmark (7.693)

The top five countries are Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Netherlands,
and Sweden, and the bottom five are Rwanda, Burundi, Central African Republic, Benin, and Togo. The gap between the top and the bottom is quite large: the average Cantril ladder in the top five countries is 7.48, which is over 2.5 times the 2.94 average ladder in the bottom countries.

Data by country and continent, and for the world as a whole, showing the levels, explanations, changes and equality of happiness, are mainly based on life evaluations from the Gallup World Poll. 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. Because of continuing improvements in most supports for better lives in Sub Saharan Africa, and of continued convergence in the quality of the social fabric within greater Europe, there has also been some progress toward equality in the distribution of well-being among global regions.
There have been important continental cross currents within this broader picture. Improvements in quality of life have been particularly notable in Latin America and the Caribbean, while reductions have been the norm in the regions most affected by the financial crisis, Western Europe and other western industrial countries; or by some combination of financial crisis and political and social instability, as in the Middle East and North Africa.
A breakdown of the likely reasons why life evaluations are higher in each region or country than in a hypothetical comparison country called

Distopia is faced with the world’s lowest national average values of each of six key variables that we have found to explain three-quarters of the international differences in average life evaluations: GDP per capita, years of healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on in times of trouble (sometimes referred to as “social support”), perceptions of corruption, prevalence of generosity, and freedom to make life choices.
We evaluate their current lives by imagining life as a ladder, with the best possible life for them as a 10, and the worst possible life as a zero. The measures are the Cantril ladder, and sometimes as life evaluations or measures of happiness about life as a whole. Life evaluations are much more fully explained by enduring life circumstances than are measures of the previous day’s positive and negative emotions.
Of all the variables, household income is by far the most unevenly divided among countries, with more than half of its global variation being among countries. International differences in perceived corruption and in the Cantril ladder are next in the extent to which their global variation is among countries, followed by generosity, freedom, positive affect, and social
The variance of negative affect is almost entirely within rather than among countries, with an international share well below 10%. Having someone to count on in times of trouble and feeling a sense of freedom to make key life choices are both strong determinants of life evaluations and emotions. Perceived corruption provides an interesting contrast, as negative affect is much worse, and life evaluations lower, where corruption is perceived to be more prevalent. But there is no link between corruption perceptions
and positive affect. Generosity is also interesting, as it has a strong positive link with life evaluations and positive affect, but no relation to negative affect. This latter result is supported by recent experimental evidence that subjects who behave generously when given the chance become significantly happier, but there is no change in their level of negative affect. Their initial levels of positive and negative affect, on the other hand, do not influence significantly the likelihood of them acting generously

Mental health and unhappiness
Mental health is the single most important determinant of individual happiness (in every case where this has been studied). About 10% of the world’s population suffers from clinical depression or crippling anxiety disorders. They are the biggest single cause of disability and absenteeism, with huge costs in terms of misery and economic waste.
Cost-effective treatments exist, but even in advanced countries only a third of those who need it are in treatment. These treatments produce recovery rates of 50% or more, which mean that the treatments can have low or zero net cost after the savings they generate. Moreover human rights require that treatment should be as available for mental illness as it is for physical illness.

Effects of well-being
From a different perspective, looking at the many beneficial consequences of well-being (rather than its causes). Subjective well-being has an objective impact across a broad range of behavioral traits and life outcomes, and does not simply follow from them. They observe the existence of a dynamic relationship between happiness and other important aspects of life with effects running in both directions.
The experience of well-being encourages individuals to pursue goals that are capacity-building to meet future challenges. At the physiological level, positive emotions have been found to improve immune, cardiovascular, and endocrine functioning. In contrast, negative emotions are detrimental to these processes.
Thus, happier individuals may be better able to evaluate the implications of decisions with short and long-term trade-offs, resulting in decisions that reflect greater self-control and appropriate risk-taking. Individuals who report high subjective well-being give more to their communities — in both time and money. Both life satisfaction and positive feelings predicted reports of donating money to charity, helping a stranger, and volunteering activities.
Happiness can also have effects on the long-term quality of relationships. Even minor depression results in problems in social relations, such as higher rates of divorce. Depressed individuals suffer deficits in problem solving and planning. In sum, there is substantial evidence connecting positive moods to higher sociability and better quality of social relationships, and the opposite is the case for negative moods and depression. Happier people enjoy the company of others, and find that interacting with people is more rewarding compared to less happy individuals. Others in turn enjoy interacting with happy individuals. Those high in subjective well-being thus have more rewarding and stable social relationships.
Happiness can also have effects on the long-term quality of relationships. Even minor depression results in problems in social relations, such as higher rates of divorce. Depressed individuals suffer deficits in problem solving and planning. In sum, there is substantial evidence connecting positive moods to higher sociability and better quality of social relationships, and the opposite is the case for negative moods and depression. Happier people enjoy the company of others, and find that interacting with people is more rewarding compared to less happy individuals. Others in turn enjoy interacting with happy individuals. Those high in subjective well-being thus have more rewarding and stable social relationships.

Values and happiness
A riddle in the history of thought is that in the great pre-modern traditions concerning happiness, whether Buddhism in the East, Aristotelianism in the West, or the great religious traditions, happiness is determined not by an individual’s material conditions (wealth, poverty, health, illness) but by the individual’s moral character. Yet that tradition was almost lost in the modern era after 1800, when happiness became associated with material conditions, especially income and consumption. The aggressive pursuit of higher income comes at the cost of declining social capital, mental well-being, and ethical behavior, A return to “virtue ethics” is one part of the strategy to raise happiness in society. we gain happiness by our compassion towards others.
Within the principle of humanity, four basic values are recognized. (1) Non-violence and respect for life, including respect for the natural environment; (2) Justice and solidarity, including rule of law, fair competition, distributive justice, and solidarity; (3) Honesty and tolerance, including truthfulness, honesty, reliability, toleration of diversity, and rejection of discrimination because of sex, race, nationality, or beliefs; (4) Mutual esteem and partnership, including fairness and sincerity vis-à-vis stakeholders and the rights to pursue personal and group interests through collective action.

Policy making
Countries are using well-being data to improve policy making, with the practical and political difficulties faced by policy makers when trying to use a well-being approach. The main policy areas considered include health, transport and education. The main conclusion is that the well-being approach leads to better policies and a better policy process.
The conceptual and empirical relationships between the human development and life evaluation approaches to understanding human progress argues that both approaches were, at least in part, motivated by a desire to consider progress and development in ways that went beyond GDP, and to put people at the center. And while human development is at heart a conceptual approach, and life evaluation an empirical one, there is considerable overlap in practice: many aspects of human development are frequently used as key variables to explain subjective well-being. The two approaches provide complementary lenses which enrich our ability to assess whether life is getting better.

In conclusion, there is now a rising worldwide demand that policy be more closely aligned with what really matters to people as they themselves characterize their lives. More and more world leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, South Korean President Park Geun-hye and British Prime Minister David Cameron, are talking about the importance of well-being as a guide for their nations and the world.
We offer the 2013 World Happiness Report in support of these efforts to bring the study of happiness into public awareness and public policy. This report offers rich evidence that the systematic measurement and analysis of happiness can teach us much about ways to improve the world’s wellbeing and sustainable development.

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I would like to think of myself as a full time traveler. I have been retired since 2006 and in that time have traveled every winter for four to seven months. The months that I am "home", are often also spent on the road, hiking or kayaking. I hope to present a website that describes my travel along with my hiking and sea kayaking experiences.
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