Hi, how are you?
A typical greeting but what lies beneath it? A people. The mood of a nation. After all, isn’t happiness what the Selfie craze is all about: boasting about being on a bigger yacht and bragging about being happy?
Mirror mirror, on the wall, who are the happiest of them all?
To interpret a country's happiness, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, who conducted the Happiness Report 2015, asked people around the world to rate their overall satisfaction in life on a scale of 0 to 10; worst to best. Discerning why some countries were less happy than others led to comparing variables such as GDP per capita, health throughout life span, support networks, personal freedom and levels of corruption. The report states:
‘The biggest drop in average life evaluations was in Greece… Of the 125 countries... differing national experiences appear to be due to some combination of differing exposure to the economic crisis and differences in the quality of governance, trust and social support.’
Unsurprisingly, all the Nordic countries feature in the top 10 as they have good social systems and assist the weak and vulnerable in society. Nevertheless, the report may have its detractors by granting the gold medal to Switzerland. After all, the landlocked country hasn’t even got a saltwater beach!
Top 10 Happiest Countries in 2015
The Common Thread
The report's conclusions are interesting:
'There is a common social theme that emerges... measures of well-being, including emotions and life evaluations, are strongly influenced by the quality of the surrounding social norms and institutions. These include family and friendships at the individual level, the presence of trust and empathy at the neighborhood and community levels, and power and quality of the overarching social norms that determine the quality of life within and among nations and generations.'
Although the Happiness Report is meant to measure the progress of nations, critics point to first world problems of high rates of suicide and use of antidepressants, suggestive of loneliness in developed countries.
1st World Problems
It may prove useful, if not controversial, to cross-reference the Happiness Report with another report that looked at the consumption of antidepressants. One quickly discovers that the Nordic countries again feature prominently. For example, 1 in 10 people in Iceland takes antidepressants every day! How is it possible that Iceland, the 2nd happiest country in the world, gorges on antidepressants? Why are suicide rates highest in ‘happy’ countries? Does sunshine play a role? Or are these geographical happiness investigations suspect?
It seems, as studies differ, results also do.
Mood of the World
In 2015 a Gallup study investigated the most positive and negative daily emotions in 143 countries. Adults were asked if they had five positive experiences the day before being interviewed. The ‘yes’ responses were used to create a Positive Experience Index Score for each country. On the positive side, all the Latin American countries jostled for pole position. A truly remarkable outcome.
America & Ireland
Neither America nor Ireland feature in any of the above happiness Top 10s. Why? Are we too busy chasing the carrot to stop and sniff a rose or is it more complex? Indeed, you might care to add your comments below as we are very curious at the Irish Empire.
Happiness Report Gallup Study (Positive Experience Index score)
America 15th 25th (79)
Ireland 18th 38th (76)
The Happiness Paradox
What do these conflicting “happiness” reports tell us? The Happiness Report 2015 takes GDP into consideration while the Gallup study instead quantifies respect, laughing, smiling and doing interesting things. Maybe, beyond a certain point, money isn’t everything?
Prove it! Ok.
Guatemala ranks 118th in the world in terms of GDP per capita yet is tied in second place in the world when it comes to positive emotions.
Robert Kennedy, the Irish-American ex-Senator and brother of American President John F. Kennedy (both of whom were assassinated), once said:
'The Gross National Product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play … It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.'
Money doesn’t make you rich, happiness does! Or, you’re not rich unless you have things money can’t buy.