The UN's official International Day of Happiness on March 20th "recognizes the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal and the need for a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes sustainable development, poverty eradication, happiness and the well-being of all peoples."
The World Happiness Report is a landmark survey of the state of global happiness by The Global Happiness Council (GHC), a network of leading academic specialists in happiness in fields including psychology, economics, urban planning, civil society, business and government. The GHC identifies best practices at the national and local levels to encourage advancement of the causes of happiness and well-being.
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The 2018 report ranks 156 countries by their happiness levels, and 117 countries by the happiness of their immigrants. The ten happiest countries in the overall rankings are also ten of the top eleven spots in the ranking of immigrant happiness.
Finland is at the top of both rankings in this report, with the happiest immigrants, and the happiest population in general. As usual, Nordic countries Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Iceland were in the Top Ten. Additional countries in the Top Ten this year included the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
The US was ranked at 11 the first year of the study and has dropped ever since. The report notes that while income per capita has more than doubled in the U.S. since 1972, happiness and well-being has declined. This year, the U.S. dropped four places, from 14th in 2017, to 18th this year.
Perhaps the most striking finding of the whole report is that a ranking of countries according to the happiness of their immigrant populations is almost exactly the same as for the rest of the population. The immigrant happiness rankings are based on the full span of Gallup data from 2005 to 2017, sufficient to have 117 countries with more than 100 immigrant respondents.
The closeness of the two rankings shows that the happiness of immigrants depends predominantly on the quality of life where they now live, illustrating a general pattern of convergence. Happiness can change, and does change, according to the quality of the society in which people live. Immigrant happiness, like that of the locally born, depends on a range of features of the social fabric, extending far beyond the higher incomes traditionally thought to inspire and reward migration. The countries with the happiest immigrants are not the richest countries, but instead the countries with a more balanced set of social and institutional supports for better lives.
In 1972, the tiny Himalayan nation of Bhutan's King Jigme Singye Wangchuc proposed that the country put a "gross national happiness"(GNH) index at the center of its public policy rather than economic measurements. The country identified nine components of happiness based on traditional Buddhist values: psychological well-being, ecology, health, education, culture, living standards, time use, community vitality and good governance.
Global dancer and traveler Matt Harding of "Where the Hell is Matt?" fame, cited Bhutan as his favorite country, noting, "They have a Ministry of Happiness, an area of the government dedicated to maintaining the happiness of the country's population ... you can see, traveling through the countryside, that has been carried out ... the people I met in Bhutan are easily among the happiest I've ever met."