The Report On World Happiness
Will Gross National Happiness replace Gross National Product? What countries are the happiest? Has the U.S. become happier?
The focus on global happiness has finally made it to a big stage, resulting in some interesting statistics and key findings that could potentially further the world’s well-being.
In early April, the United Nations held its first conference on happiness with over 600 delegates, including leaders and representatives from nations around the world, attending.
What the U.N. conference produced, among many things, is a robust 160-page report with pages of references, case studies, and discussions of happiness metrics and research as well as suggestions for national and world policy goals.
Six Things To Note:
- Average happiness in the United States has not risen during times of strong economic growth.
- Political freedom and strong social networks and an absence of corruption are more important than income in regard to what makes people happy.
- Denmark, Norway, Finland and the Netherlands earned the highest scores (7.6 out of 10) for life evaluation.
- Benin, Central African Republic, Togo and the Sierra Leone had an average life evaluation score of 3.4.
- The conference aimed to draw attention to the use of well-being as an alternative metric to Gross National Product for assessing national growth, wellness, and success.
- Conference attendees made a commitment to discuss happiness and well-being at the upcoming Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.
Other Interesting Highlights and Conclusions:
Highlight #1: There are three major happiness evaluation tools currently in use — the Gallup World Poll (GWP), the World Values Survey (WVS), and the European Social Survey (ESS). These surveys focus on the responses to any combination of the following questions: “How happy are you now?,” “How happy were you yesterday?,” and, “How happy are you with your life as a whole these days?”
Conclusion: Regular collection of happiness data on a large scale can inform policy-making and help us identify what “deliverables” should be created to foster well-being.
Highlight #2: External (e.g., income, work, community, governance) and personal (e.g., health, family, education, age) causes of happiness and misery based on 30 years of research were discussed.
Conclusion: Absolute income is important in poor countries, but rich countries tend to place more importance on comparative income. Other factors with a strong impact on happiness include quality of work, social trust, freedom of choice, and political participation.
Highlight #3: Research suggests once baseline happiness has been met, happiness varies more with the quality of human relationships rather than with income.
Conclusion: Create goals that work toward strong communities with high degrees of trust, high employment and quality of employment, improved mental and physical health, support of family life, and accessible, quality education. The foundation for better policy-making is tied to explaining happiness, measuring and analyzing happiness, and translating research on well-being into actionable resources.
Image courtesy of The World Happiness Report, edited by John Helliwell, Richard Layard and Jeffrey Sachs