UN report names the happiest country on earth.
Every year for the last five years, the U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network has published its happiness report, ranking 155 nations of the world from the most to the least happy. The US, naming the “pursuit of happiness” as a fundamental right, seems like it should come up on top, but so far that hasn’t happened. The winner? Norway.
The Scandinavian country rose from fourth place last year to take the top rank this time. The US is 14th. Looking at the list, it seems like a cold climate might help. As well as Norway, which reaches well above the Arctic circle, the top 10 include Nordic countries Denmark, Iceland, Finland and Sweden. Canada is in 7th place.
Perhaps more likely, all these countries are fairly rich and are known for having high levels of trust in their societies as well as good governance. Norway can thank North Sea oil for its current wealth, but unlike many other countries with a lot of oil money, most of the income has been invested in an oil fund for the good of future generations. This has helped protect the country from some of the ups and downs that can make oil dependent nations more unstable.
Beyond the economic factors, life expectancy, social support, and freedom contribute to happiness. Other findings from the report include the fact that money matters, but it matters more on the bottom of the scale, in poorer countries. Work is very important for happiness in all kinds of countries, and unemployment causes it to drop quickly. The US, while wealthy, has a more polarized political climate and bigger economic differences, which might help explain why freedom isn’t enough to bring it higher into the rankings.
The lowest levels of happiness are found in poor countries that also lack some of these other social factors, and especially in places affected by war and conflict. The Central African Republic was on the very bottom of the rankings, along with countries like Burundi, Tanzania, and Syria.