Measuring Happiness



If the International Day of Happiness (March 20) was not firmly etched into your calendar, you may still have caught wind of the World Happiness Report (WHR), released on that auspicious day. Launched in 2012 and published annually by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, the WHR ranks 155 countries by their happiness levels.

The study considers the responses of roughly 3000 individuals in each of more than 150 countries who answer questions concerning “six key variables, each of which digs into a different aspect of life. These six factors are GDP per capita, healthy years of life expectancy, social support (as measured by having someone to count on in times of trouble), trust (as measured by a perceived absence of corruption in government and business), perceived freedom to make life decisions, and generosity (as measured by recent donations).”

The WHR summarizes, “Although the top ten countries remain the same as last year, there has been some shuffling of places. Most notably, Norway has jumped into first position, followed closely by Denmark, Iceland and Switzerland.” The top ten countries rank highly on all six of the variables. The remaining countries are Finland in fifth place, followed by the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, and Austra­lia and Sweden tied for the ninth position

If not exactly surprising, the big news for Americans is that “The USA is a story of reduced happiness. In 2007 the USA ranked 3rd among the OECD countries; in 2016 it came 19th. The reasons are declining social support and increased corruption and it is these same factors that explain why the Nordic countries do so much better.” The report adds, “falling American happiness is due primarily to social rather than to economic causes.”

In case you missed the report, it’s available for downloading at the World Happiness Report website.