US analytics and advisory company Gallup, and the UN, have released the 2019 World Happiness Report – a survey of the state of global happiness ranking 156 countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be.
This year’s World Happiness Report focuses on happiness and the community: how happiness has evolved over the past dozen years – on the technologies, social norms, conflicts and government policies that have driven those changes.
The report is an acknowledgement that GDP, household income and unemployment data do not tell us anything about happiness.
“This means that leaders can no longer assume that the lives of those in their countries improve with a rise in GDP, as was shown in the Arab Uprising countries where GDP was increasing but the ratings of their lives trended downward ahead of the unrest,” the report said.
“Leaders need to follow much more traditional metrics to effectively track and lead the progress of their nation.”
The report found that the happiest countries tend to have high values for most of the key variables that have been found to support well-being:
- Healthy life expectancy;
- Social support;
- Trust and generosity.
With its continuing upward trend in average scores, Finland consolidated its hold on first place, ahead of an also-rising Denmark in second place.
As in previous years, the top of the list is dominated by Nordic and North European countries with Norway, Iceland, and Sweden all also featuring in the top 10.
Australia (11th), the United Kingdom (15th), and the United States (19th) all featured in the top 20 – with Costa Rica (12th) and Israel (13th) also notable stand outs.
South Africa is ranked at 106th on the list – behind African countries including Mauritius (57th) and Nigeria (85th).
This marks a substantial decline for the country, with the report finding that there has been a steep drop in overall life satisfaction and happiness over the last decade.
The country was named as the 21st biggest faller, with the average respondent around 0.49 points unhappier on a 10-point scale.