The survey ranks
155 countries by their happiness levels. The report for 2017 is the fifth one to come out since 2012. The first report was in support of the UN High Level meeting on happiness and well-being. Happiness and well-being measures have since become important measures of human progress. The survey is
of one thousand people in each country and asks them rank on a scale of 0 to 10 whether they are living their best life: "Researchers then use six measures to try to understand the results: gross domestic product per capita, life expectancy, support from relatives or friends, charitable giving, freedom to make life choices, and perceived levels of government and corporate corruption." The rankings use averages of the last three years of surveys.
The U.S. continued to fall in the rankings to 14th among the 155 countries but in terms of developed OECD
countries it fared even worse coming in just 19th of the 34 countries in the organization. Economist, Jeffrey Sachs
, one of the editors of the report said: “The predominant political discourse in the United States is aimed at raising economic growth, with the goal of restoring the American Dream and the happiness that is supposed to accompany it. But the data show conclusively that this is the wrong approach.” Sachs is show on the appended video. He appears to be talking about the previous years report.
This year Norway took the top ranking followed by Denmark previously at the top and then Iceland. Syria, Tanzania, Burundi, and the Central African Republic were the least happy. Canada was in the top ten ranking 7th.
The happiness level is not likely to be increased much by an increase in GDP as compared to improvement of other aspects of life researchers claim. For example, the happiness index is falling in part because of a perceived increase in corruption and a decrease in social support. To make up for this GDP would need to increase per person by a whopping $82,000. The authors estimate to get back to 2006 levels of happiness per-person GDP would need to grow by $133,000. As for ways
to boost US happiness ratings:
Sachs suggested five means by which to improve social trust: campaign finance reform, policies aimed at reducing income inequality (such as public financing of health), improved social relations between native born and immigrant Americans, working to move past the fear of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and improved access to high-quality education.
Sachs claims that the U.S. was facing a social crisis not an economic one.
Canada's ranking of seventh is the lowest
it has had since the rankings began in 2012. Canada has usually taken 5th or 6th spot. Canada's actual score this year was 7.316 versus 7.404 in 2016 and 7.427 in 2015. John Helliwell, an economist at the University of British Columbia and lead author of the report said: "It's the human things that matter. If the riches make it harder to have frequent and trustworthy relationships between people, is it worth it?' Of Norway the highest ranking country the report said that such qualities as freedom, caring, generosity honesty, health, income and good governance kept Norwegians happy even though revenues were falling due to the steep decline in oil prices. The report
noted: "By choosing to produce its oil slowly, and investing the proceeds for the future rather than spending them in the present, Norway has insulated itself from the boom and bust cycle of many other resource-rich economies."
The top ten countries all ranked highly in terms of income, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on in times of trouble, generosity, freedom and trust. The least happy countries all suffer from deep economic problems but also civil war or internal violence as well as in Syria.