Some nations are happier than others, that’s a fact. In most year’s rankings, Switzerland or one of the Scandivian countries (quite frequently: Denmark) take the No. 1 spot in the carefully researched list. Quite obviously, this does not mean each and every person over there is happier than your fellow countrymen – but on average, they are. Why is that the case? The solution can be found in the answers to these high-level questions:
- Do people earn enough money – and how well does the economy do in general? Additionally: Is the distribution of wealth (perceived as) fair?
- Do people form strong social bonds in your society? Do they value highly their family and friends?
- Do people have access to (enough) healthy food, clean water, and decent doctors/hospitals?
- Do people live in a (stable) democracy granting a high amount of individual freedom and safety?
- Can people afford to be generous and compassionate vis-a-vis your countrymen (and generally, those in need)?
- Can your citizens trust their political and economic leaders?
Or, in the words of University of British Columbia economics professor John Helliwell, co-editor of the World Happiness Report (as quoted on ThinkAdvisor.com):
Six factors explain about three-quarters of the difference in country rankings […]: GDP per capita, social support (based on the question, “Do you have a friend or relative to call on in times of trouble?”), life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity (having donated to charity within the past month) and trust (perceptions of business or governmental corruption).
In order to make make the top ranks of the “happiest nations list”, a country needs to do pretty well on each of those factors. But they also explain why some countries that don’t do so well economically might be far ahead of some richer counterparts:
(Some of) the best things in life are free – e.g., your family and friends.