Norwegians have just been given another reason to smile.
After finishing in fourth place for the last two years, Norway has just been named the “world’s happiest country” by the UN’s World Happiness Report.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network compiles the report by asking 1000 people in each of 155 countries to rank their satisfaction with life on a scale of 1 to 10.
Rather than simply leave it up to the people of each nation to tell them how happy they were, which would obviously be a flawed system, the researchers also looked at factors like each country’s overall wealth, life expectancy, generosity, level of trust in the government and social support.
Norway rose three spots despite a decline in its oil prices, signalling that it’s what countries do with their wealth, rather than the sheer wealth itself, that really matters.
“It’s a remarkable case in point,” says John Helliwell, the report’s co-editor.
“By choosing to produce oil deliberately and investing the proceeds for the benefit of future generations, Norway has protected itself from the volatile ups-and-downs of many other oil-rich economies.
“This emphasis on the future over the present is made easier by high levels of mutual trust, shared purpose, generosity and good governance. All of these are found in Norway, as well as in the other top countries.”
Even in wealthy countries, there are causes for unhappiness that have little to do with money.
“In rich countries the biggest single cause of misery is mental illness,” says Professor Richard Layard, one of the report’s authors.
Jeffrey Sachs, another of the report’s co-editors, says the report shows that governments should be focused on their constituents’ happiness.
“The World Happiness Report continues to draw global attention around the need to create sound policy for what matters most to people — their well-being,” he says.
“As demonstrated by many countries, this report gives evidence that happiness is a result of creating strong social foundations. It’s time to build social trust and healthy lives, not guns or walls. Let’s hold our leaders to this fact.”
Speaking of guns and walls, the United States finished 14th, dropping one spot from last year.
The report also focused on happiness in the workplace, and attempted to determine what makes people feel satisfied with their employment.
“People tend to spend the majority of their lives working, so it is important to understand the role that employment and unemployment play in shaping happiness,” says Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, the co-author of the report’s chapter on happiness at work.
De Neve says that people in well-paid roles do tend to be happier, but it’s not the only factor.
“Work-life balance, job variety and the level of autonomy are other significant drivers,” he says.
The world’s 25 happiest countries, according to the UN’s World Happiness Report 2017
- New Zealand
- Costa Rica
- United States
- United Kingdom
- United Arab Emirates
- Czech Republic
Do you think New Zealanders are really happier than Australians? Have your say in the comments below!