Social factors key to happiness, UN report finds
Norway is the world’s happiest country, according to the 2017 World Happiness Report, released yesterday. The index, the fifth annual such report, is produced by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network.
Norway, which leapt up three spots compared to last year’s report, was followed by Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Finland, the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden in the top 10.
The index examines six key factors to arrive at its national happiness findings: GDP per capita; social support; healthy life expectancy at birth; freedom to make life choices; generosity; and perceptions of corruption.
The index comprises 155 of the world’s countries, with the 10 least happy countries in the report being, from the bottom: the Central African Republic; Burundi; Tanzania; Syria; Rwanda; Togo; Guinea; Liberia; South Sudan; and Yemen.
The index highlights the importance of social, and not merely economical, factors as a measure of wellbeing, stating:
“We have seen that the role of social factors as supports for happiness are pervasive and encompassing. Wherever we looked, from income and health to life in the workplace and on the streets, the quality of the social fabric is seen to be important.”
This year’s report, released on the International Day of Happiness (March 20) also featured a focus on happiness at work.
The report stated: “Since the majority of people spend much of their lives at work, it is critically important to gain a solid understanding of the role that employment and the workplace plays in shaping happiness for individuals and communities around the world.”
Findings included that blue-collar workers around the world consistently display lower levels of happiness than white-collar workers.
A good income was not the only factor found to impact work-related wellbeing. Other influential elements included job security, work-life balance, variety, autonomy, and health and safety risks.
The index also highlights the detrimental social and wellbeing effects of unemployment, finding that: “Individuals do not adapt over time to becoming unemployed and unemployment can even have a ‘scarring’ effect after regaining employment.”
The report was produced in collaboration with the Centre for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, the Centre for Economic Performance at London School of Economics and Political Science, and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.