World Happiness Report Puts Australia in Top 10
11 September 2013 at 12:00 pm
Australia has been ranked 10th in a new UN World Happiness Report – behind a swathe of Northern European countries and Canada.
This year's report finds that Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Sweden are the happiest countries, with Canada in sixth place and Australia in 10th place.
The US was ranked at 17th, UK at 22nd while France was at 25th and Germany 26th.
The report uses six key variables to measure and explain a country’s happiness. These include real GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on, perceived freedom to make life choices, freedom from corruption, and generosity.
The report shows significant changes in happiness in countries over time, with some countries rising and others falling over the past five years with Australia showing a very slight increase in overall happiness since 2005.
The UN World Happiness Report is published by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), under the auspices of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.
The report is edited by Professor John F. Helliwell, of the University of British Columbia and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research; Lord Richard Layard, Director of the Well-Being Programme at LSE’s Centre for Economic Performance; and Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, Director of the SDSN, and Special Advisor to the UN Secretary General.
“There is now a rising worldwide demand that policy be more closely aligned with what really matters to people as they themselves characterize their wellbeing,” Prof Jeffrey Sachs said.
“More and more world leaders are talking about the importance of wellbeing as a guide for their nations and the world. The World Happiness Report 2013 offers rich evidence that the systematic measurement and analysis of happiness can teach us a lot about ways to improve the world’s wellbeing and sustainable development.
“The report delves into the analysis of the global happiness data, examining trends over time and breaking down each country’s score into its component parts, so that citizens and policy makers can understand their country’s ranking.
“There is some evidence of global convergence of happiness levels, with happiness gains more common in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, and losses more common among the industrial countries.”
For the 130 countries with data available, happiness (as measured by people’s own evaluations of their lives) significantly improved in 60 countries and worsened in 41 (Figure 2.5).
The report said for policy makers, the key issue was what affected happiness.
“Some studies show mental health to be the single most important determinant of whether a person is happy or not. Yet, even in rich countries, less than a third of mentally ill people are in treatment. Good, cost-effective treatments exist for depression, anxiety disorders and psychosis, and the happiness of the world would be greatly increased if they were more widely available,” the report said.
The report also shows the major beneficial side-effects of happiness. Happy people live longer, are more productive, earn more and are also better citizens.