Home Education 2024 World Happiness Report: USA, Germany out of the top 20

2024 World Happiness Report: USA, Germany out of the top 20

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Finland, the world's happiest country 2024
Finland, the world's happiest country 2024

What is Happiness?

Happiness is a unique emotional experience for each of us. It is a positive and pleasant emotion, ranging from contentment to intense joy. Moments of happiness emanate from positive life experiences or thoughts, but sometimes arise from no obvious cause. Generally speaking, happiness sums up mainly to: the balance of emotions – overall experiencing more positive than negative feelings. Experiencing happiness is important for our emotional and physical health. A stronger sense of happiness and well-being lead to better relationships, increase social connection and contribution to the lives of others, as well as contributing to healthier physical wellbeing.

What is the World Happiness Report?

The World Happiness Report is a publication that contains rankings of national happiness based on respondent ratings of their own lives, correlated with various quality of life factors. In July 2011, the UN General Assembly adopted what is termed ‘resolution 65/309 Happiness: Towards a Holistic Definition of Development‘ inviting member countries to measure the happiness of their people.

The first World Happiness Report was released on 1 April 2012, as a foundational text for the UN High Level Meeting: Well-being and Happiness: Defining a New Economic Paradigm, which outlined the state of world happiness, causes of happiness and misery, and policy implications highlighted by case studies. The second World Happiness Report was issued in 2013, and in 2015, the third. Since 2016, it issues on an annual basis on 20 March, to coincides with the UN’s International Day of Happiness. In 2024 Finland ranks as the happiest country in the world seventh times in a row.

“The fact that Finland has been ‘the happiest country on earth’ for seven years in a row could start building pressure on people, however, if we Finns are all so happy, why am I not happy?”

~ Frank Martela (Psychology researcher at Aalto University)

How does the World Happiness Report work?

The rankings of national happiness are based on a happiness measurement survey undertaken world-wide by the polling company Gallup, Inc. Nationally representatives are asked to think of a ladder, with the best possible life for them being a 10, and the worst possible life being a 0. They are then asked to rate their own current lives on that 0 to 10 scale. The report correlates the life evaluation results with various life factors.

The life factor variables used in the reports are reflective of determinants that explain national-level differences in life evaluations across research literature. However, unemployment or inequality still need consideration because comparable data is not yet available across all countries. The variables used illustrate important correlations rather than causal estimates.

The use of subjective measurements of well-being is a bottom-up approach which emancipates respondents to evaluate their own wellbeing. In this context, the value of the Cantril Ladder is the fact that a respondent can self-anchor themselves based on their perspective.

Experts in economics, psychology, survey analysis and national statistics assess how measurements of well-being affect the progress of nations.

Gallup World Poll questionnaire measures 14 areas within its core question. These are business & economic; citizen engagement; communications & technology; diversity (social issues); education & families; emotions (well-being); environment & energy; food & shelter; government and politics; law & order (safety); health; religion & ethics; transportation; and work.

What are the World International Report rankings like?

People in over 150 countries bring data. Every country compares to other countries using an average score on a scale running from 0 to 10 that is tracked over time. These variables currently include:

  • real GDP per capita
  • social support
  • healthy life expectancy
  • freedom to make life choices
  • generosity
  • perceptions of corruption

Each country also compares against a hypothetical nation called Dystopia. Dystopia represents the lowest national averages for each key variable and is, along with residual error, used as a regression benchmark. The six metrics explain the estimated extent to which each of these factors contribute to increasing life satisfaction when compared to the hypothetical nation of Dystopia, but they themselves do not have an effect on the total score reported for each country.

What is the Top 20 Happiest countries in the world?

  1. Finland
  2. Denmark
  3. Iceland
  4. Sweden
  5. Israel
  6. Netherlands
  7. Norway
  8. Luxembourg
  9. Switzerland
  10. Australia
  11. New Zealand
  12. Costa Rica
  13. Kuwait
  14. Austria
  15. Canada
  16. Belgium
  17. Ireland
  18. Czechia
  19. Lithuania
  20. United Kingdom

How does the 2023-list differ with the latest 2024-list?

The top 10 list of the happiest countries remained largely unchanged compared to last year’s ratings. The top 20 list saw plenty of movement in the top twenty. This year, Britain (ranked #20) dropped one place from the 2023-list (ranked #19). Costa Rica (ranked #12) moved 11 places down from the 2023-list to enter the top 20. Kuwait (ranked #13) which was out of the rankings for a three-year period due lack of surveys entered the top 20 list. Meanwhile, the United States (ranked #23) dropped off from last year’s top 20 (ranked #15). Germany (ranked #24) also fell off last year’s top 20 (ranked #16) this year. This year, only Canada and the U.K. have populations over 30 million.

How does the top 3 countries consistently maintain their top statuses?

Countries globally are split into three clusters; common-interest states, special-interest states, and weak states. Broadly speaking, common-interest states can support a vast array of welfare-enhancing policy which increases overall happiness. One factor that impacts which category each country falls into is state effectiveness—measured by its ability to raise money, deliver services, avoid repression, civil war, and more. These measures correlate with life satisfaction. The Nordic countries (Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Norway and Sweden) all have high ranks for happiness and equality–and we know that equality contributes to general life satisfaction.

“Nordic countries always rank higher in the report because of their welfare society model, which ‘enables everyone to have a good life’…it doesn’t mean that you don’t have to do things by yourself”

~ Sanna Marin (Former Prime Minister of Finland).

Finland

For the seventh year running, Finland has been named the happiest country in the world. Measures such as generosity (in Finland, people are highly likely to expect lost wallets to be returned, for example), income, freedom of choice, and life expectancy can explain why this country keeps coming out on top.

Denmark

Speaking of the Nordic countries, the top three countries in this report are all within this region. Denmark places second in the report, retaining its rank from the last two years. The country is widely known as having some of the highest tax rates in the world–but that results in vast access to high-quality public services which results in its population consistently ranking as one of the happiest in the world.

Iceland

Iceland is one of the named common-interest states, where average life satisfaction is two points higher than in weak states.

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