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Happiest countries in the world 2016

The happiest countries in the world have been ranked in the latest World Happiness Report. Denmark has retaken the title of “the happiest country in the world,” knocking Switzerland into second place.

Previously, we ran an article featuring Bhutan and the fact that they have measured happiness in their country since 1972 using GNH (Gross National Happiness) as opposed to GDP (Gross Domestic Product).

Although Bhutan’s methods have not been widely adopted or recognised as a feasible way to evaluate a country’s true happiness, they have prompted several initiatives to rank countries based on their citizens’ happiness and wellbeing.

Since 2012, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), a global initiative for the United Nations, has produced the World Happiness Report. SDSN employs an international group of economists, neuroscientists, and statisticians to survey citizens on their subjective wellbeing and produce a comprehensive list of the happiest countries in the world.

Assessing happiness

SDSN highlight that their 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, be they governmental or corporate. They also draw only partly on self-assessment – or make no use of them at all.

SDSN stress that their findings draw heavily on data from population samples in each country who assess happiness through a life evaluation, producing subjective wellbeing data. 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

Unsurprisingly, there is a strong correlation between unhappiness and the poorest, most dangerous countries. Troubled African states along with countries suffering under conflict and instability such as Syria, Afghanistan and Togo account for the vast majority of the lowest rankings. Burundi was ranked as the least happiest nation.

Also rather predictably, North American and European (particularly Scandinavian) countries feature highly in the rankings. Some European countries – such as Greece, Italy and Spain – that saw drops suffered economic and political turmoil. Ukraine’s political trouble and violence likely caused a significant drop in happiness there too.

Spare a thought for Bulgaria, by far the unhappiest country in Europe at number 129 – well below its neighbours.

ranking the happiest countries in the world

RankCountryScore
1Denmark 7.526
2Switzerland 7.509
3Iceland 7.501
4Norway 7.498
5Finland 7.413
6Canada 7.404
7Netherlands 7.339
8New Zealand 7.334
9Australia 7.313
10Sweden 7.291
11Israel 7.267
12Austria 7.119
13United States 7.104
14Costa Rica 7.087
15Puerto Rico 7.039
16Germany 6.994
17Brazil 6.952
18Belgium 6.929
19Ireland 6.907
20Luxembourg 6.871
21Mexico 6.778
22Singapore 6.739
23United Kingdom 6.725
24Chile 6.705
25Panama 6.701
26Argentina 6.65
27Czech Republic 6.596
28United Arab Emirates6.573
29Uruguay 6.545
30Malta 6.488
31Colombia 6.481
32France 6.478
33Thailand 6.474
34Saudi Arabia 6.379
35Taiwan 6.379
36Qatar 6.375
37Spain 6.361
38Algeria 6.355
39Guatemala 6.324
40Suriname 6.269
41Kuwait 6.239
42Bahrain 6.218
43Trinidad and Tobago6.168
44Venezuela 6.084
45Slovakia 6.078
46ElSalvador 6.068
47Malaysia 6.005
48Nicaragua 5.992
49Uzbekistan 5.987
50Italy 5.977
51Ecuador 5.976
52Belize 5.956
53Japan 5.921
54Kazakhstan 5.919
55Moldova 5.897
56Russia 5.856
57Poland 5.835
58South Korea 5.835
59Bolivia 5.822
60Lithuania 5.813
61Belarus 5.802
62North Cyprus 5.771
63Slovenia 5.768
64Peru 5.743
65Turkmenistan 5.658
66Mauritius 5.648
67Libya 5.615
68Latvia 5.56
69Cyprus 5.546
70Paraguay 5.538
71Romania 5.528
72Estonia 5.517
73Jamaica 5.51
74Croatia 5.488
75Hong Kong 5.458
76Somalia 5.44
77Kosovo 5.401
78Turkey 5.389
79Indonesia 5.314
80Jordan 5.303
81Azerbaijan 5.291
82Philippines 5.279
83China 5.245
84Bhutan 5.196
85Kyrgyzstan 5.185
86Serbia 5.177
87Bosnia and Herzegovina5.163
88Montenegro 5.161
89Dominican Republic 5.155
90Morocco 5.151
91Hungary 5.145
92Pakistan 5.132
93Lebanon 5.129
94Portugal 5.123
95Macedonia 5.121
96Vietnam 5.061
97Somaliland region 5.057
98Tunisia 5.045
99Greece 5.033
100Tajikistan 4.996
101Mongolia 4.907
102Laos 4.876
103Nigeria 4.875
104Honduras 4.871
105Iran 4.813
106Zambia 4.795
107Nepal 4.793
108Palestinian Territories 4.754
109Albania 4.655
110Bangladesh 4.643
111Sierra Leone 4.635
112Iraq 4.575
113Namibia 4.574
114Cameroon 4.513
115Ethiopia 4.508
116South Africa 4.459
117Sri Lanka 4.415
118India 4.404
119Myanmar 4.395
120Egypt 4.362
121Armenia 4.36
122Kenya 4.356
123Ukraine 4.324
124Ghana 4.276
125Congo (Kinshasa) 4.272
126Georgia 4.252
127Congo (Brazzaville) 4.236
128Senegal 4.219
129Bulgaria 4.217
130Mauritania 4.201
131Zimbabwe 4.193
132Malawi 4.156
133Sudan 4.139
134Gabon 4.121
135Mali 4.073
136Haiti 4.028
137Botswana 3.974
138Comoros 3.956
139Ivory Coast 3.916
140Cambodia 3.907
141Angola 3.866
142Niger 3.856
143South Sudan 3.832
144Chad 3.763
145Burkina Faso 3.739
146Uganda 3.739
147Yemen 3.724
148Madagascar 3.695
149Tanzania 3.666
150Liberia 3.622
151Guinea 3.607
152Rwanda 3.515
153Benin 3.484
154Afghanistan 3.36
155Togo3.303
156Syria 3.069
157Burundi 2.905

Download the full World Happiness Report 2016.

(Lead image: © Kurtliu | Dreamstime)

Further reading: The Year of Living Danishly is Londoner Helen Russell’s reflection on living in Denmark, named #1 in the last World Happiness Report.

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