The happiest countries in the world 2019 have been ranked in the latest World Happiness Report. This year, Finland holds on to the top spot.
Happiness is a nebulous thing; hard to grasp and harder to hold onto. Scientists, economists and philosophers have defined it through the ages as a combination of different things, among them health, wealth, companionship and security.
Various indices attempt to rank the happiest countries in the world on an annual basis. The World Happiness Report from the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) is particularly interesting as it ranks 156 countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be.
The SDSN employs an international group of economists, neuroscientists and statisticians to survey citizens on their subjective wellbeing to produce a comprehensive annual list of the happiest countries in the world.
How do we assess happiness?
SDSN highlights that its rankings are not an index like the longer running Human Development Index (HDI) and more recent Happy Planet Index (HPI). These are often influenced by sponsors and draw only partly on self-assessment – or make no use of it at all.
SDSN stresses that its findings draw heavily on data from population samples in each country, using a life evaluation survey to produce subjective wellbeing data.
The report principally relies on asking a straightforward, subjective question of more than 1,000 people in more than 150 countries:
Imagine a ladder, with steps numbered from 0 at the bottom to 10 at the top.
The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you. On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time?
That is not to say the report is without a scientific basis. Economic and social influences are considered along with the survey (namely GDP per capita, social support, life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity and perceptions of corruption), but the focus is on how happy citizens say they are; not how happy statisticians think they should be.
The geography of happiness
Finland takes the top spot once again as the happiest country in the world. Rounding out the rest of the top 10 are countries that have consistently ranked among the happiest. They are in order: Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, New Zealand, Canada and Austria.
The UK is ranked 16th, gaining three spots from 19th last year, while the US is ranked 19th, dropping one spot from last year.
The troubled African state of South Sudan is ranked the least happiest country in the world. The rest of the bottom five comprise Central African Republic, Afghanistan, Tanzania and Rwanda.
Unsurprisingly, there is a strong correlation between unhappiness and the poorest and most dangerous countries.
Other key headlines include:
Australia has dropped out of the top 10 happiest countries in the world and now sits as position 11. Austria has gained two spots to take its place.
The 10 countries with the largest declines typically suffered some combination of economic, political and social stresses. The five largest drops since 2005-2008 were in Yemen, India, Syria, Botswana and Venezuela.
When you factor in population growth, world happiness has fallen in recent years, driven by the sustained downward trend in India (133 last year and 140 this year).
Benin was ranked fourth from last in the first World Happiness Report and has since risen 50 places, making it the biggest gainer overall.
There are no superpowers in the top 10 happiest countries in the world indicating that a country’s economic strength does not always correlate with the happiness of its citizens.
Happiest countries in the world 2019 – ranked
|21||United Arab Emirates||6.825|
|39||Trinidad and Tobago||6.192|
|76||Hong Kong S.A.R. of China||5.430|
|78||Bosnia and Herzegovina||5.386|
|155||Central African Republic||3.083|