Well-being and happiness have been recognised as important indicators of countries’ economic and social development and since 2012, the World Happiness Report has been ranking countries’ happiness levels.
The World Happiness Report 2015 evaluates the changes in happiness levels of 158 countries and the reasons for these statistics. The report is timely, ahead of this year’s global meetings on climate change and the future sustainable development goals which will shape the future.
“The aspiration of society is the flourishing of its members,” said Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute, Columbia University. “This report gives evidence on how to achieve societal well-being. It’s not by money alone, but also by fairness, honesty, trust, and good health. The evidence here will be useful to all countries as they pursue the new Sustainable Development Goals.”
The report, produced by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), contains analysis from leading experts in the fields of economics, neuroscience, national statistics, and describes how measurements of subjective well-being can be used effectively to assess national progress. The report is edited by Professor John F. Helliwell, of the University of British Columbia and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research; Professor Richard Layard, Director of the Well-Being Programme at LSE’s Centre for Economic Performance; and Professor Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute and SDSN.
The report identifies the countries with the highest levels of happiness:
Top ranking African countries by happiness are Libya (63), Algeria (68), Mauriius (71), Nigeria (78), Zambia (85), Somaliland region (91), Morocco (92), Mozambique (94), Lesotho (97), Swaziland (101), Tunisia (107), South Africa (113), and Ghana (114) .
“As the science of happiness advances, we are getting to the heart of what factors define quality of life for citizens,” said Helliwell. “We are encouraged that more and more governments around the world are listening and responding with policies that put well-being first. Countries with strong social and institutional capital not only support greater well-being, but are more resilient to social and economic crises.”
The World Happiness Report 2015 shows that at both the individual and national levels, all 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 over-arching social norms that determine the quality of life within and among nations and generations. When these social factors are well-rooted and readily available, communities and nations are more resilient.
The report also demonstrates that a key national challenge is to ensure that policies are designed and delivered in ways that enrich the social fabric, and teach the power of empathy to current and future generations. Under the pressures of putting right what is obviously wrong, there is often too little attention paid to building the vital social fabric. According to the report, paying greater attention to the levels and sources of subjective well-being has helped us to reach these conclusions, and to recommend making and keeping happiness as a central focus for research, policy and practice.